elderly woman smiling looking out a window


Whole grains have long been linked with longevity and are a central part of the diet of many of the world’s longest-lived people. In an analysis of 19 cohort studies encompassing more than one million participants, each one-ounce daily serving of whole grains was associated with a 14% lower risk of death from heart disease, a 3% lower risk of death from cancer, and a 9% lower risk of total mortality.

Similarly, in another meta analysis, Harvard scientists analyzed the whole grain intake and rates of death for 786,076 adults across 14 studies. Compared to people who ate the least whole grains, people who ate the most whole grains had a 16% lower risk of death from all causes, an 18% lower risk of death from heart disease, and a 12% lower risk of death from cancer. However, the significantly lower risk of cancer death was only seen in people who ate at least 30g whole grains per day (the amount in about ½ cup cooked brown rice, or 2 slices of 100% whole grain bread). The researchers also observed a dose response relationship, meaning the more whole grains someone ate, the less likely they were to die during the study period.

New research, however, suggests that whole grains don’t just add years to life – they may also add life to years, by being linked with a longer healthspan, or the length of time that a person is healthy, not just alive. In a new study published this month in the European Journal of Nutrition, men who ate the most whole grains in midlife lived roughly one year longer without disease compared with men who ate the least whole grains. The authors concluded that “intake of whole grains in mid-life was associated with healthy aging looking 20 years ahead.”

Growing older and wiser is a privilege, and the lifestyle habits we adopt in our earlier decades can set us up for comfort and wellbeing for the long-term. While restrictive weight loss diets and youthful standards of beauty saturate the wellness space, these aren’t the habits we need to carry forward if we wish to thrive in our twilight years. Instead, join us in rediscovering the time-tested and evidence-based “old ways” of eating, where whole grains in their minimally processed form were an important part of daily diets, where activity and movement were a normal part of daily life, and where meals were enjoyed in the company of loved ones.

Bob Moore wearing the Whole Grain Crown, a large crown covered in grains of corn, wheat, etc. He is gesturing excitedly at the crown.

Just one year ago, we had the pleasure of catching up with one of our favorite elders in the whole grains community — the late Bob Moore, the founder of Bob’s Red Mill and the recipient of the Oldways Whole Grains Council’s Whole Grain Pioneer Award. After beaming to Moore about the great taste and great health benefits of whole grains, he quipped, “I agree with you 100%, and I have 94 years to back that up!”

No matter what your age, it’s never too late to put your health first. Whole grains are a delicious starting point of any health journey. (Kelly)


To have our Oldways Whole Grains Council blog posts (and more whole grain bonus content!) delivered to your inbox, sign up for our monthly email newsletter, called Just Ask for Whole Grains. 

Add a Comment