Good news for those that love a little bread in their diet. Whole grains are getting the nod again for helping you live longer, and avoiding cardiovascular events. Before you bust out the snack cakes in celebration, you have to eat actual whole grains. These include oats, quinoa and popcorn. Sorry, that package of Little Debbie need not apply.

The study, published in today’s JAMA Internal Medicine, was the culmination of a 25-year study on the effects of whole grains and their ability to reduce deaths from heart disease, and increase longevity.

Dr. Qi Sun, lead researcher on the project and assistant professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, summed up the research. “I think it’s quite conclusive that if you eat whole grains, you almost always benefit.”

Researchers used data from both the Nurses’ Health Study (74,000 women) and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study to examine the benefits of whole grains. Food surveys were handed out to the respective studies every 2-4 years. The participants self-recorded their approximate whole grain intake.

Over the course of the two studies (24-26 years), 26,920 people died.

Eat 28 Grams of Whole Grains Per Day

Dr. Sun and the team of researchers presented three key findings in the journal, JAMA. The biggest is something you can incorporate today. Researchers found that people eating at least 28 grams of whole grains per day had a five percent lower risk of dying over the study period. Participants consuming that amount had a nine percent lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular related disease.

The Role of Bran

The numbers aren’t stark, but it shows the health benefits of whole grains. In addition to the eating whole grains, the type also played a pivotal role. Bran was singled out as having the biggest impact.

Bran is the tough skin that covers the whole grain kernel. It holds the B-vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. Most processing of the whole grain removes a majority of the grain’s bran.

Just replacing one serving of refined grains with whole grains had a significant impact over the life of the study. Participants replacing the one serving reduced their risk of dying by eight percent. Those replacing a serving of red meat with whole grains saw a reduction in risk by twenty percent. That will make you want to put the burger down.

The researchers accounted for a variety of factors when studying the impact of grains. Age, BMI, general diets, exercise and smoking had to be accounted for. Men and women who ate more whole grains were more likely to engage in health lifestyle behaviors.

“If you are really looking into whole-grain consumption with other diseases, stroke, heart disease and colorectal cancer, whole grains are consistently associated with [a] lower risk of those diseases,” Sun said.

Key is Healthy Living

Unless you are allergic to whole grains, there is no reason they can’t be a part of your diet. There are plenty of fad diets that say toss grains, but study after study backs the benefits of whole grains.

It has a low glycemic index and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Like everything, it demands moderation. Eating whole grains is great, just don’t destroy a pot of whole grain pasta.

Check out the study in today’s JAMA Internal Medicine.

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