A study published in Circulation shows that eating more whole grains may reduce the risk of premature death. The researchers reviewed the findings of 12 published studies as well as data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). The studies included nearly 800,000 men and women from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavian countries. During the study periods (1971–2010), there were almost 98,000 deaths recorded.
While the study couldn’t show a direct cause-and-effect relationship, the review suggests that the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease and stroke dropped approximately 25% when people had three servings of whole grains (48 g total) daily, compared to those who ate fewer or no servings of whole grains. The risk of death from cancer appeared to decrease about 15%, the study authors said.
The authors hypothesized that since whole grains are high in fiber, they can help regulate blood sugar and improve blood cholesterol levels, which can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fiber also makes you feel full longer, so you may eat fewer calories, maintain a healthy weight, and lower heart disease risk.
The researchers concluded that the “findings further support current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends at least three servings per day of whole grain intake.”