High intake of whole grains is linked to a lower risk of major chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, as well as death from cancer, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory disease, according to research published in BMJ.

Dagfinn Aune, PhD student, Department of Public Health and General Practice, Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Imperial College, London, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 45 studies across 64 publications reporting on relative risk estimates regarding the link between intake of whole grains and cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause or cause-specific mortality.

The greatest benefit occurred in people who increased their whole grain intake from no whole grains to 2 servings (32 g) per day. Further risk reduction was identified in people who consumed up to 7.5 servings (225 g) of whole grains per day.

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“A large body of evidence has emerged on the health benefits of whole grain foods over the last 10-15 years,” said Dr Aune. “Grains are one of the major staple foods worldwide, and provide on average 56% of energy intake and 50% of protein intake.”

The studies included more than 7,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 26,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 2,000 cases of stroke, and 34,000 deaths from cancer. Reductions in relative risk were 19%, 22%, 14%, and 15%, respectively. The researchers noted a 17% reduction in relative risk of all-cause mortality, a 22% reduction in relative risk of respiratory disease, and a 51% reduction in relative risk of diabetes.

“These results strongly support dietary recommendations to increase intake of whole grain foods in the general population to reduce risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality,” said Dr Aune.


  1. Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2016; doi: 10.1136/bmj.i2716