Eating whole grain cereal for breakfast every day can reduce a man’s risk of heart disease by 29 percent, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The Physicians Health Study surveyed 21,000 U.S. doctors on their diets and health status over the course of 19 years. In this time, 1,018 of the doctors developed heart failure, which occurs when the heart no longer pumps blood effectively.
The researchers found that men who ate breakfast cereal seven times or more a week had a 29 percent lower risk of heart failure than those who never ate breakfast cereal. This reduction in risk was calculated after adjusting for other risk factors, such as smoking.
The reduction in risk only came from consuming whole grain breakfast cereals. When the researchers looked only at refined cereal consumption, the benefit disappeared.
The current study was the first to look directly at the relationship between breakfast cereal consumption and heart disease risk on a large scale.
Scientists have long known of an association between whole grain consumption and improved health, including cardiovascular health. The higher dietary fiber content of such grains improves digestive health and reduces the incidence of certain cancers, gum diseases, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease. In addition to high fiber content, whole grains have a lower glycemic index than refined grains, and a higher content of antioxidants, protein, vitamins and minerals.
According to researcher Luc Djoussé of Harvard Medical School, the coronary health benefits of whole grains may arise indirectly from their effects on indirect heart disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Whole grains are derived from grain seeds that have not had the seed’s outer coating, or bran and germ, removed. Refined grains retain only the seed’s endosperm, which is the portion highest in simple carbohydrates
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