Whole Grains May Lower Risk of Heart Disease in Older Adults

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July 13, 2021 -- Consuming more whole grains may protect against heart disease, a new study suggests.

An analysis of over 3,000 middle- and older-age adults over many years found that those who ate at least three servings of whole grains daily had smaller increases in blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and waist size, compared to those who ate less than one-half serving per day.

“We found that there were no long-term studies of how people are actually living, without intervention, that examined the relationship between intake of whole or refined grains and changes in certain risk factors that are early warning signs of disease, including waist size, blood pressure, and blood sugar,” author Caleigh Sawicki, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist formerly of Tufts University in Boston, tells WebMD. “This is an important step in understanding how different types of grains may influence health over time.”

The results were published online July 13 in the Journal of Nutrition.

The researchers used data from 3,121 people who took part in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort, a study that launched in the 1970s to examine long-term risk factors for heart disease. The average age of the participants was about 55 at baseline.

Changes in the following five risk factors for heart disease at 4-year intervals over the course of approximately 18 years were analyzed: waist size, blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood), and HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol. Participants were grouped into categories based on the amount of whole grains they reported eating, ranging from low whole-grain intake (less than one-half serving every day) to three or more servings per day.

For each 4-year i...

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