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Whole grain consumption and mortality

Latest research from the nursing and medical journals

Whole grains contain endosperm, germ and bran. In refined grains, the germ and bran are removed during the milling process leaving just endosperm.

Whole grains are a good source of minerals and vitamins. Picture: iStock

Whole grains are a good source of fibre, B vitamins and trace minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc. These nutrients are found in the grain's or brans outer layer, which functions as the protective shell for the germ and endosperm inside. The germ contains antioxidants, vitamin E and some B vitamins, while the endosperm provides carbohydrate, protein and energy.

This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to find out the relationship between the amount of whole grain consumed and disease and mortality.

High intake

The review shows that a high intake of whole grain is associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and total cancer, as well

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Whole grains contain endosperm, germ and bran. In refined grains, the germ and bran are removed during the milling process leaving just endosperm.

Wholegrain
Whole grains are a good source of minerals and vitamins. Picture: iStock

Whole grains are a good source of fibre, B vitamins and trace minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc. These nutrients are found in the grain's or bran’s outer layer, which functions as the protective shell for the germ and endosperm inside. The germ contains antioxidants, vitamin E and some B vitamins, while the endosperm provides carbohydrate, protein and energy.

This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to find out the relationship between the amount of whole grain consumed and disease and mortality.

High intake

The review shows that a high intake of whole grain is associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and total cancer, as well as mortality from respiratory disease, infectious disease, diabetes and all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes.

One of the reasons for the beneficial effect may be that whole grain is rich in fibre so reducing the glucose and insulin response immediately after a meal. There is also lower risk of obesity in people with a high whole grain intake. 

Increasing benefits were seen for those who ate up to 225g/day (seven portions). Greatest reductions in risk were seen for those people who had previously eaten no whole grains and were persuaded to take two servings a day, such as whole grain cereal for breakfast and a piece of wholemeal bread for dinner.

The results strongly support recommendations to increase intake of whole grain foods to reduce risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality.

Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E et al (2016) Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 353:i2716. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i2351

Ruth Sander is an independent consultant in care of the older person

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