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Eating Wholegrains May Improve Long Term Health

A new study has found that people who eat wholegrain foods have better long-term health and longevity.

This large and carefully-planned study, published in the journal Circulation in June, looked at the results of 14 studies, including almost 800 000 people in total. It found that the risk of dying during the studies was 16% lower for people who ate the most wholegrain foods, compared to those who ate the least. So the more wholegrains people ate, the greater the protective effect. 

Wholegrain foods had the strongest effect in protecting against deaths from heart attacks and strokes, and also reduced the risk of dying from cancer. 

We can’t be sure that this effect is solely down to eating wholegrain foods, as people who eat wholegrains may also lead a healthy lifestyle in other ways - such as exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and sticking to the recommended amounts of alcohol. 

Even so, Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK, notes "this study adds to the evidence that wholegrain foods are an important part of a heart healthy diet and should be chosen to replace refined carbohydrates – such as white bread, rice and pasta."

How do wholegrains keep us healthy?

The authors of the study suggest that wholegrains could:

  • help lower cholesterol 
  • help lower blood pressure
  • help you feel fuller for longer, so you don’t have the urge to snack
  • help prevent type 2 diabetes
  • reduce damage to cells.

What are wholegrain foods?

Wholegrains are grains such as rice and wheat which have not been processed (or refined) to remove the outer layer of the grain. So wholegrain foods are foods that are made with all parts of the grain, including the outer layer where a lot of the nutrients are. 

So when choosing products made with grains, such as rice, bread and pasta, choose the wholegrain options such as brown rice or wholemeal bread. Look out for words like ‘whole wheat’, ‘wholegrain’ ‘wheatgerm’ or ‘whole oat’ on the label. 

Where can I find out more?

Find out more about how wholegrains keep us healthy and how you can eat more wholegrains from the British Dietetic Association.

Read more about this study on NHS Behind The Headlines and see the original study: 

Zong G, Gao A, Ju FB, Sun Q. Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer - A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Circulation. Published online June 13 2016 

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