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.


High Whole Grain Consumption Helps Statin Users Reduce Cholesterol Further

New research suggests that patients taking statins (cholesterol lowering medication) should also consider eating more whole grains for best results. Boston researchers used dietary recall data and cholesterol levels from 4,284 adults age 45 and older from a national nutrition and health survey. While all statin users had lower non-HDL (a combination of LDL and VLDL or “bad cholesterol”) than non-statin users, high whole grain consumption helped even more. Statin patients also eating more than 16 grams of daily whole grains had non-HDL cholesterol levels that were 11 mg/dL lower than those taking statins but not eating as much whole grain. Whole grain intake and statin use were also significantly linked with healthier  total cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol ratios and total cholesterol concentrations.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014 Oct;100(4):1149-57. (Wang H et al.)

Cost Need Not Be a Barrier to Healthy Diets

Research analyzing the cost of healthy eating suggests that money spent on whole grains is money well spent. In a recent study, scientists collected 3-day food records from 252 youth with type 1 diabetes, then graded them for diet quality and nutrient density. The researchers then calculated the food costs for each participant, to examine the relationship between diet quality and diet cost. The scientists found that higher quality diets came in at a comparable cost to lower quality diets (only $0.68 more per day), as those with the healthiest diets allocated more of their money to whole grains, produce, lean meat, and low-fat dairy, while spending less money on high-fat meat and high-fat dairy.  Based on their results, the researchers concluded, “that cost need not be an insurmountable barrier to more healthful eating,” and that “it is possible to improve diet quality without undue financial burden.”
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014 September 26. Pii: S2212-2672(14)01218-0. [Epub ahead of print] (Nansel T et al.)

Breakfast Cereal Associated with Higher Whole Grain Intake and Other Health Benefits

A study commissioned by the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum analyzed 232 articles to investigate the health benefits and risks of eating cereal. The researchers found that while breakfast cereal consumption of any type is associated with diets higher in vitamins and minerals and lower in fat and a lower body mass index and less risk of being overweight or obese, whole grain breakfast cereal consumption provided even more benefits. Specifically, the study found that oat and barley based cereals can help lower cholesterol, and whole-grain or high-fiber breakfast cereals are associated with a lower risk of diabetes and higher intakes of protein, fiber, niacin, folate, calcium, and zinc. Additionally, the study found that those who eat breakfast cereal regularly have higher whole-grain consumption per day.
Advances in Nutrition. 2014 Sep 15;5(5):636S-73S, (Williams PG et al.)

Whole Grain Pizza Crust Popular with Kids

Restaurateurs hesitant to offer healthier alternatives might want to think again. Nutrition researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted taste tests and studied plate waste data with 120 kids in school cafeterias and 394 kids in restaurants. Not only did they find that children consumed as much of the whole-grain pizza as the refined-grain pizza, but they also discovered that liking ratings for the pizza did not differ by crust type. Based on their research, the authors concluded that “the impact on whole-grain intake could be substantial if large, national restaurant chains served pizza made with whole-grain crust.”
Public Health Nutrition. 2014 Aug 16:1-5 [Epub ahead of print] (Tritt A et al.)

Whole Grains Lower Insulin and Triglycerides in People with Metabolic Syndrome

Studies suggest a relationship between whole grain intake and insulin action. In a study in Italy, 53 adults (40-65 years old) with metabolic syndrome followed one of two different 12-week diets. One group consumed their standard diet, but replacing all grains with whole grains, and one group consumed their standard diet, but choosing only refined cereals. Researchers found that the whole grain group had significantly lower levels of post-meal insulin (29%) and triglyceride levels (43%) than before the 12-week test period, thus reducing the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Based on these findings, the researchers suggest that “the whole-grain diet was able to improve insulin action” after meals, thus providing clues about how whole grain diets reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2014 August;24(8):837-844. (R. Giacco et al.)


What you eat today may potentially affect your health years later. As part of a prospective study in Germany, researchers analyzed the relationship between the quality of carbohydrates eaten in adolescence and inflammatory markers in young adulthood. The analysis was based on 205 participants (113 girls and 92 boys) with at least two 3-day weighed dietary records during puberty, and blood samples in younger adulthood (18-36 y). Researchers found that eating fewer whole grains and more high Glycemic Index carbohydrates during puberty is predictive of higher interleukin 6 concentrations (a marker of inflammation) in adulthood. 
The Journal of Nutrition. 2014 July 30. [epub ahead of print] (Goletzke et al.)


While fruits and vegetables are known as sources of healthy antioxidants and phenolic compounds, research increasingly shows that whole grains contain them too. In this review, researchers analyzed the total phenolic contents, phenolic acid profile and antioxidant activity of several whole grains, including wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, rye, oat and millet. The review shows that whole grains contain a number of phytochemicals (including antioxidants) and significantly exhibit antioxidant activity. Researchers conclude that the consumption of whole grains is considered to have significant health benefits including prevention of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer because of the contribution of phenolic compounds. 
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2014 July 30. [epub ahead of print] (Van Hung P et al.)


Inflammation has been linked to many diseases, so understanding how to reduce inflammation is important. In a small study in Scotland, 22 people with type 2 diabetes participated in a randomized cross-over study, which consisted of two 8-week interventions with either an oat-enriched diet (their normal diet with oats replacing some of the carbohydrates; average intake of oats was 131g/day, or the equivalent of more than 1 ½ cups uncooked rolled oats) or a diet based on the standard dietary advice from Diabetes UK (average intake of oats was only 5g/day). Researchers then assessed the microparticle concentrations (a marker of inflammation) of patients after each diet and found that the oat-enriched diet significantly improved these risk factors for inflammation.  
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2014 June;58(6):1322-32. (Zhang X et al.) 

WIC Package Improves Retail Choices

In 2009, the foods subsidized under the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program changed to include fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, among other changes. Researchers in New Orleans visited small stores in that city when the change was introduced, and then a year later. They found that just 3.7% of stores participating in the WIC program carried whole wheat bread or brown rice in 2009, while 70.4% offered whole wheat bread a year later and 92.6% offered brown rice. Most of this change can be attributed to the impact of the WIC program, as only 1.5% of non-WIC participating small stores carried whole wheat bread in 2010, and only 12.1% carried brown rice. These changes in availability can make healthier choices available not just to people in the WIC program, but to everyone in that neighborhood.
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2014 May-Jun;46(3 Suppl);S38-44. (Rose et al.)

Brown Rice Reduces Diabetes Risk

At the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation in India, researchers carried out a randomized crossover trial in which they studied the effects of three diets on fifteen overweight Asian Indians. Test meals were identical for the three groups except for the type of rice (brown or white) and the addition of legumes. Fasting serum insulin was measured at the beginning and end of each 5-day test period, during which the subjects underwent continuous glucose monitoring. The scientists found that IAUC (incremental area under the curve, a measure of blood sugar management) was 19.8% lower with brown rice and 22.9% lower with brown rice and legumes, as compared to white rice. Fasting insulin was also markedly lower in the two brown rice phases of the study.
Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics. 2014 May; 16(5);317-25. (Mohan et al.)

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