Eating three or more portions of dietary fiber a day is associated with a lower risk for all cardiovascular diseases and for dying of cancer, diabetes, and respiratory and infectious diseases, a study has shown. The study is strong proof that consuming lots of whole grains is good for our health, says first author Dagfinn Aune of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
The meta-analysis isn’t the first study that links whole grains to positive health effects, but it is the first one to look at how much whole grain one should eat to minimize health risks and that has examined the connection with various causes of death. In general, the study showed that the higher the consumption, the better protected you are. “We saw the lowest risk among people who ate between seven and seven and a half servings of whole grain products a day, which was the highest intake across all the studies.
This corresponds to 210-225 grams of whole grain products in fresh weight and about 70-75 grams of whole grains in dry weight, and is about the same as the health authorities in Norway and other Nordic countries recommend as the minimum daily allowance,” says Aune.
The researchers’ analyses showed fewer risk factors for people who consumed more bread and cereal with whole grains, as well as foods with added bran. On the other hand, people who ate a lot of white bread, rice or cereals with refined grains did not show reduced risk.
“A lot of folks eat plenty of grains, but they choose refined breads instead of varieties with more dietary fiber. Our study suggests that you can reduce the risk of premature death by replacing a big part of the white flour in your diet with whole grain products,” said Aune.
Some of the beneficial health effects of eating whole grains may lie in their high fiber content. A high intake of dietary fiber can stabilize blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, and can positively affect the gut environment. All of this can contribute to a reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Whole grain products also contain several other biologically active substances, such as antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and zinc. It is probably the whole package of favorable components that contribute to the positive effect on the risk of chronic disease and mortality.