In the flurry of healthy eating advice that dominates January, ditching gluten is among the trendiest. But there’s new evidence to suggest that if you don’t have to go gluten-free, you might want to hold up a minute.
According to a study released Monday by the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, keeping whole grains on the menu is associated with living longer and with preventing cardiovascular disease in particular.
Lead researcher Hongyu Wu of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and her colleagues studied the eating habits and health data of more than 118,000 men and women from two large American studies -- the Nurses' Health Study (1984-2010) and the the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986-2010). The participants were all free of cancer and cardiovascular disease when the studies began.
By 2010, there were 26,920 deaths in the group. After adjusting for lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity and age, the researchers found fewer total deaths and fewer deaths due to cardiovascular disease - which includes conditions such as heart attack, heart valve problems and stroke - the more whole grains people ate.
Whole grains did not, however, appear to significantly affect cancer deaths, despite some previous research pointing to a reduction in colon cancer deaths due to eating whole grains.
Every bite counts
It turns out that every serving (28 grams/per day) of whole grains was associated with 5 per cent lower total mortality or 9 per cent lower cardiovascular disease mortality. Bran - the hard outer layer of whole grains - appeared to play a greater role than the germ, the inner reproductive portion. Wu and her co-authors speculate that the bran’s fibre, B-vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals may be the key disease–fighting heavy hitters, as other research has found.
And the best news is that those servings included a wide range of foods (including some which are gluten-free, for those with celiac and sensitivities.)
The whole grains measured in the study included whole wheat, whole wheat flour, oats and oat flour, amaranth, bulgur, barley, cornmeal, brown rice, brown rice flour and a movie-night favourite, popcorn.
Wu writes that her findings add heft to current North American dietary guidelines promoting an increase in whole grains in our diets.
At the very least the promise of a longer, healthier life should make us think twice before ditching our favourite bulgur pilafs and whole wheat pastas, don’t you think?
Looking for ways to amp up your nutrition? Try the superfoods of the future! We've also got the Best-Ever Whole-Grain Pancakes!