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Bran Reduces Heart Disease Deaths

Study Shows Whole-Grain Foods Lower Cardio Risk in People With Diabetes

Anatomy of a Grain continued...

During up to 26 years of follow-up, 852 women died, including 295 who died as a result of heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular causes.

Using the food questionnaires, the researchers were able to estimate the women's daily consumption of whole grains, bran, germ, and fiber.

Women who ate the most bran ate more than 10 times as much each day as women who ate the least (9.73 grams vs. 0.8 grams).

After considering other cardiovascular risk factors, bran consumption was strongly associated with a reduced risk of death from heart attack and stroke, study researcher Lu Qi, MD, PhD, tells WebMD.

He says whole grains, especially fiber- and vitamin-rich bran, may protect the heart by reducing inflammation in the body.

Although the study included only women, Qi says the benefits of eating whole grains probably extend to men with diabetes. The Harvard researchers are conducting a similar study in men in hopes of confirming this.

Not All 'Whole Grain' Foods Equal

These days, many of the most highly processed breakfast cereals and other grain-based foods claim to be good sources of whole grain and fiber, but it isn't necessarily true, New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle, PhD, tells WebMD.

Popcorn, brown rice, whole-wheat flour, and long-cooking oatmeal are good, minimally processed whole-grain foods.

Determining how much whole grain is in heavily processed products is not so easy, Nestle says.

The American Heart Association recommends looking for the words "whole" or "whole grain" before the grain name in the ingredient list. The whole grain should also be the first product listed.

Nestle recommends looking for products that contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and that contain only ingredients that are easily recognized.

"If you don't know what a lot of the ingredients are, leave it on the shelf," she says.

The packaging for Kellogg's Froot Loops and Apple Jacks boasts that the breakfast cereals "now provide fiber." But the fiber content of the cereals is just 3 grams per serving.

General Mill's Banana Nut Cheerios and Lucky Charms boxes now say "whole grain guaranteed," but the cereals each contain just 1 gram of fiber per serving.

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