Wholesome Grains, Stronger Hearts

That Cracklin’ Oat Bran could cut your risk of heart disease—if you happen to be a man


A key to preventing heart failure could be hiding in your cereal box.

A study by two Harvard Medical School researchers links consumption of whole-grain breakfast cereals to reduced risk of heart failure among men.

In the study, published in the Oct. 22 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, Associate Professor of Medicine J. Michael Gaziano and Assistant Professor of Medicine Luc Djousse, researchers at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, analyzed data from a 1981 study of physicians’ health.

The 21,376 American male physicians who participated in the study filled out surveys reporting the average number of servings of cold breakfast cereals they had consumed during previous years.

During a follow-up period, 1,018 new cases of heart failure occurred among the study’s participants. Among those with no cereal consumption, heart failure occurred in 26.7 cases per 10,000, in comparison to 23.3 cases among those who ate seven or more servings per day. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

Djousse said the association between whole grain consumption and reduced heart failure risk is caused by nutrients in the whole grains, such as fiber and certain minerals, that lower blood pressure and inhibit overeating, thereby impeding weight gain.

He recommends half a cup to a cup of whole-grain cereal per day, adding that moderation is important, because weight gain can contribute to diabetes and high blood pressure, negating the positive effects of whole grain consumption.

“The challenge ahead,” Djousse said, “is to determine what individual nutrients, if any, in whole-grain cereal [are] behind these findings.”

CORRECTION: The Oct. 25 news article "Wholesome Grains, Stronger Hearts" incorrectly stated that risk of heart failure was reduced among men who ate seven or more servings of cereal per day. That amount of cereal was, in fact, consumed per week.

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