Study shows whole grains can boost longevity

Lauren Blair
Eating more whole grains has also been linked to longer life, according to a large-scale, long-term study released this month by the Harvard School of Public Health.
Courtesy Photo

— Brown over white: whether it’s rice or bread, we’ve all heard by now that whole grains are better for us than their refined — and often white — counterparts.

Whole grains include all parts of the grain — the bran, the endosperm, and the nutrient-packed germ inside the grain. Foods such as barley, brown or wild rice, millet, oatmeal, popcorn and whole wheat can be consumed either by themselves or as ingredients in other foods.

“Whole grains contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined grains because they have not been removed during the refining process,” said Arin Daigneau, dietician and director of the Women, Infants and Children program for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. “Eating whole grains on a regular basis can reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity. “

Now, eating more whole grains has also been linked to longer life, according to a large-scale, long-term study released this month by the Harvard School of Public Health.

In particular, the study demonstrated a marked decrease in mortality related to cardiovascular disease among those who ate more whole grains.

“They found that whole grain intake was associated with up to 9 percent lower overall mortality and up to 15 percent lower CVD (cardiovascular disease)-related mortality,” according to a press release from HSPH. “For each serving of whole grains (28g/day), overall mortality dropped by 5 percent, and by 9 percent for CVD-related mortality.”

Scientists also found, however, that there was no decrease in cancer-related mortality in association with eating whole grains.

The data analyzed was drawn from two major studies each conducted over the course of approximately 25 years. Scientists were able to account for other dietary and lifestyle factors in order to isolate the health benefits of eating whole grains.

Fiber is one aspect of whole grain foods that is particularly beneficial for heart health, according to the American Heart Association.

“Dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease,” the AHA said in an article on its website.

Whole grains are also a good choice for those with diabetes.

“Whole grains as part of a diabetic diet can help regulate blood sugar levels,” Daigneau said. “Refined grains usually digest faster than whole grains because they have less fiber. This can lead to faster rises in blood sugar for people with diabetes and can also leave you feeling hungry sooner. The fiber in whole grains slows digestion, which slows the release of sugar into the blood and keeps you feeling full longer.”

Do not be fooled, however, by misleading labels on certain processed foods such as bread, Daigneau warned.

“I encourage clients to read food labels and to make sure that the label says 100 percent whole wheat or 100 percent whole grain,” she said. “It is important to read the ingredients list and make sure that a whole grain ingredient is listed first on the ingredients list. Just because the food is brown does not mean it is whole grain!”

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or

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