Whole Grains 101

whole grains 101

Health Studies on Whole Grains

Whole grain bread is healthy.

Every day, more and more studies show the benefits of whole grains. We regularly post new studies here, where you can browse through them at random. Or, you can use our filters to hone in on a specific question, such as "Does barley reduce the risk of diabetes?" or "What's the research about whole grains and hypertension?"

Filter the studies below by selecting a grain and/or a disease/condition, then click apply.

 

Whole Grains May Help Prevent Heart Attacks

Researchers analyzed the diet of nearly 55,000 Danish adults and then tracked their health outcomes for over 13 years. Those consuming the most whole grains per day had a 25-27% lower risk of having a heart attack than those eating the least amount of whole grains per day. In fact, increasing whole grain intake by 25g per day was linked with a 12-13% lower risk of a heart attack. Among the different types of whole grains, rye and oats appeared to be especially protective.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016 Feb 17. Pii:acjn124271. (Helnæs A et al.)

Healthy Diet with Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables May Protect Against Cognitive Decline

Since there is no known cure for cognitive decline, prevention and deceleration of this condition are an important area of research. Most people’s diets change from time to time, so researchers wanted to study how these changes affect cognition. In a study of over 2000 Swedish older adults at least 60 years old, eating a “Western diet” (lots of refined or processed foods, red meats, high fat dairy products, saturated/trans fats, and sugar) was associated with more cognitive decline, whereas eating a more “prudent” diet (a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, rice/pasta, legumes, nuts, fish, and low-fat dairy products) was associated with a deceleration of cognitive decline. However, the most fascinating finding is that every little bit helps. More frequent intake of foods from the "prudent" diet might weaken the negative cognitive effects associated with the Western diet, even if you're unable to change all your habits.
Alzheimers and Dementia. 2016 Feb;12(2):100-9. (Shakersain B, et al.)

Eating Fiber in Young Adulthood Linked with Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Dietary fiber is an important nutrient found in plant foods (mostly in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and pulses). To study the link between fiber intake and breast cancer risk, Harvard scientists analyzed the adolescent and early adulthood diets of over 90,000 women, and noted any diagnosis of breast cancer. The researchers found that every 10g of fiber in adolescence and young adulthood was linked with a 14% and 13% lower risk of breast cancer, respectively. In fact, those eating the most fiber in adolescence and young adulthood (25g per day) were 25% less likely to get breast cancer than those eating the least fiber (12g per day).
Pediatrics. 2016 Feb 1. pii: peds.2015-1226. (Farvid MS et al).

Whole Grains Linked with Less Inflammation and Slower Cognitive Decline in Aging

A “grain brain” seems to be a healthy defense against inflammation and accelerated cognitive decline. In a British study, researchers analyzed the diets, inflammation markers, and cognitive health of over 5,000 middle aged adults over six years. The scientists found that those eating diets high in red and processed meat, peas, legumes (mostly baked beans) and fried food, and lower in whole grains, were more likely to have higher levels of inflammation and accelerated cognitive decline. In fact, whole grains had the strongest link to anti-inflammatory markers among all 37 food groups studied.
Clinical Nutrition. 2016 Jan 29. Pii: S0261-5614(16)00035-2. (Ozawa M et al.)

US Whole Grain Intake Improves from 2001-2012, Linked with Better Weight

We know that healthy whole grains are growing in popularity, but new data quantify this trend. Minnesota researchers analyzed the whole grain intake and BMI, waist circumference, and obesity of nearly 45,000 children and adults from 2001 to 2012. The scientists found that while less than 1% of kids and 8% of adults met whole grain recommendations (about 3 oz equivalents per day), whole grain consumption has improved in both groups (adults from 0.72 oz equivalents in 2001 to 0.97 in 2012, kids from 0.56 oz equivalents in 2001 to 0.74 in 2012). The biggest source of whole grains for both kids and adults alike were yeast breads and ready to eat cereals. Those eating the most whole grains had a lower BMI and waist circumference, and were less likely to be overweight or obese. The researchers conclude that “greater whole grain consumption is associated with better intakes of nutrients and healthier body weight in children and adults,” and that “Continued efforts to promote increased intake of whole grain foods are warranted.”
Nutrition Journal. 2016 Jan 22;15(1):8. (Albertson AM et al.)

Replacing Potatoes with Whole Grains Can Lower Gestational Diabetes Risk

Healthy food choices can be an important way to help prevent gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. To learn more about types of foods that might be helpful or harmful, Harvard researchers analyzed the diets and health outcomes of over 15,000 women. They found that replacing two servings per week of potatoes with whole grains lowered the risk of gestational diabetes by 12% (compared to 10% for replacing potatoes with legumes, and 9% for replacing potatoes with other vegetables).
British Medical Journal. 2016 Jan 12;h6898. (Bao W et al.)

Whole Grains for Breakfast Linked with Higher Test Scores in Elementary Students

Whole grains are a classic centerpiece to the morning meal for many families, but students may especially benefit from this practice. Researchers collected data from nearly 700 elementary school students in Kansas (average age = 7.5) to see how eating breakfast relates to standardized test scores. They found that while breakfast eaters scored significantly higher in all test areas, what the students ate made a big difference. Greater servings of whole grains were significantly related to higher scores in reading comprehension and fluency and math, while fruit juice was significantly correlated with lower math and reading comprehension and fluency scores.  
Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2015 Dec 23:1-8 [Epub ahead of print] (Ptomey LT et al.)

Gluten Free Diet Has No Effect on Non-celiac Athletes

A common belief among athletes is that going gluten-free might help performance. To investigate this popular belief, Australian scientists randomly assigned 13 competitive cyclists without celiac disease to a 7 day gluten containing diet or a 7 day gluten free diet. The cyclists then went through a 10 day washout period, before trying the other diet, serving as their own controls. There was no significant difference in time trial performance of the athletes on either diet, nor were there significant differences in markers of inflammation or intestinal injury.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2015 Dec;47(12):2563-70.

Whole Grain Pasta Meal Reduces Appetite

There is more to healthy eating than just salads -- whole grain pasta could be a great pick for dieters looking to curb hunger. In a small study, 8 healthy adults were assigned to a lunch of either a refined grain pasta, a refined grain pasta with lemon juice, a refined grain pasta with legumes, or a whole grain pasta – all with the same amount of calories. Each week, the participants were assigned to a different pasta meal, serving as their own controls. The researchers found that the whole grain pasta “resulted in significantly greater fullness and reduced hunger and prospective [later] food intake.” The scientists also found that whole grain pasta was just as popular among the participants as the other meals, noting that “palatability ratings did not differ.”
Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2015 Nov 16:1-7. (Cioffi I et al.)

 

 

Whole Grains Linked with Weight Loss in Children

In many parts of the developed world, approximately one third of children are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk for health complications down the road. To determine which foods are most closely linked with excess weight gain in children, researchers analyzed the three-day food records and BMI of over 4,600 British children at ages 7, 10, and 13. Potato chips were most closely linked with excess weight gain in children, along with butter and margarine, battered or breaded fish, processed meats, French fries and roasted potatoes, desserts, and sweets. On the other hand, whole grains were the only food group to be consistently linked with weight loss, suggesting that whole grains may be particularly important for children struggling with their weight.
Health Affairs. 2015 Nov;34(11):1940-1948. (Dong D et al.)

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