Researchers are reporting new evidence that greater whole grain consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in middle- to older-aged adults.
The large observational study used data from 3,121 participants in NHLBI’s Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort. It included men and women with an average age of 55 years and evaluated health and lifestyle changes every four years over an 18-year follow-up period. Measurements focused on the impact of whole grains and refined grains on waist circumference, HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol), triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure, which are used as markers for heart disease risk.
The researchers found that participants who ate at least three servings of whole grains daily had smaller increases in waist size, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels over time compared to those who ate less than one-half a serving of whole grains per day. The researchers also found that those who ate lower levels of refined grains had a lower average increase in waist size and a greater average decline in triglyceride levels over time.
In this study, the greatest contributor to whole-grain intake among participants was whole-wheat breads and ready-to-eat whole-grain breakfast cereals. Refined grains came mostly form pasta and white bread.
The findings underscore the importance of eating whole grain foods and replacing refined grains with whole grains in the diet, the researchers suggested. The study, partly funded by the NHLBI, appeared in The Journal of Nutrition.