Whole Grains Cut Heart Failure Risk

Study Shows Whole-Grain Cereal for Breakfast Lowers Heart Failure Risk in Men

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 22, 2007

Oct. 22, 2007 -- Starting the day with whole-grain cereal may lower the risk of heart failure in the long run.

A new study shows men who eat whole-grain breakfast cereal regularly are less likely to develop heart failure than those who eat it rarely or never.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood as effectively as it should. The risk of developing heart failure is about one in five for the average 40-year-old man or woman, the study's researchers say.

Other studies have suggested that a diet rich in whole grains, such as nonrefined breakfast cereals, can provide a variety of health benefits. But researchers say it's the first study to look at the relationship between breakfast cereal and the risk of heart failure in a large group.

If further studies confirm these results, adding whole-grain cereal may be a relatively risk-free way to reduce the risk of heart failure.

Cereal Fights Heart Failure

The study compared cereal intake and the risk of heart failure among more than 21,000 doctors who took part in the Physicians Health Study I. The results appear in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Information on the participants' diets was gathered throughout the study and their health was monitored with annual surveys. During more than 19 years of follow-up, there were 1,018 cases of heart failure.

The results showed that the risk of heart failure decreased as cereal consumption increased. For example, the risk of heart failure among those who ate breakfast cereal at least seven times a week was 29% lower than that the risk among those who never ate cereal, after adjusting for other heart disease risk factors.

When researchers further analyzed the results they found this healthy effect was associated with whole-grain cereals only, not with refined breakfast cereals.

Researcher Luc Djoussé, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues say the protective effect of whole-grain cereal against heart failure may be due to the beneficial effects of whole grains on heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, heart attack risk, diabetes, and obesity.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Djoussé, L. Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 22, 2007; vol 167: pp 2080-2085. News release, American Medical Association.

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