Having a diet rich in whole grains, such as brown rice, oats and Weetabix, could significantly reduce our risk of early death, a new study suggests.
Research from Harvard University found that for every every single serving (16g) of whole grains a person ate, there was a 7% drop in risk of death from any cause, a 9% drop in death from heart disease and a 5% drop in their chance of dying from cancer.
According to the scientists, the more whole grains a person eats, the greater the health benefit.
They found that when a person ate three servings (48g) of whole grains daily, they had a 20% lower chance of dying from any cause, a 25% reduced risk of a cardiovascular death and a 14% reduced chance of dying from cancer.
For the the latest report the scientists analysed 12 previous studies from the US, Scandinavia and the UK.
The combined studies involved more than 780,000 men and women and included more than 97,000 total deaths.
Among these, there was a total of 23,597 deaths from heart disease and 37,492 deaths from cancer.
According to the new report, half a cup of cooked brown rice or 100% whole grain pasta counts as one serving of whole grains.
A slice of whole grain bread also acts as one serving, while two Weetabix (37.5g) is just over two servings.
Qi Sun, who led the research, said low-carbohydrate diets that ignore the health benefits of whole grain foods “should be adopted with caution” as they could potentially lead to heart disease and early death.
“Based on the solid evidence from this meta-analysis and numerous previous studies that collectively document beneficial effects of whole grains, I think healthcare providers should unanimously recommend whole grain consumption to the general population as well as to patients with certain diseases to help achieve better health and perhaps reduce death,” he said, according to PA.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Eating more whole grains is a simple change we can make to improve our diet and help lower our risk of heart and circulatory disease.
“Unlike in the US, the UK doesn’t have specific recommendations for the number of portions of whole grains we should eat everyday, but we do have a recommendation on the amount of fibre we should eat.
"Whole grains are a great way of increasing the level of fibre in our diets and, on average, our intake of fibre is not meeting guidelines.
“Choosing brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, wholemeal or granary bread instead of white and swapping to wholegrain breakfast cereals like porridge are all simple ways to help us up our fibre and wholegrain intake."
Professor Tim Key, Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Oxford, said: “We know that eating fibre, including whole grains, can reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.
"This study suggests that a diet high in whole grains could reduce death from cancer, but it’s difficult to tease apart other lifestyle factors that could be playing a role. If whole grains do reduce the risk of dying from cancer it’s most likely linked to bowel cancer."
The latest study comes as Dr Zoe Harcombe has slated the government's Eatwell Guide, which provides the official diet advice for the nation.
The guide says people should consume 30g of fibre per day from fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods.
Dr Harcombe claimed the guide was created by a group "consisting primarily of members of the food and drink industry rather than independent experts" and therefore made wealth, rather than public health, its priority.
But Public Health England has dismissed her claims, saying the guide was made "based on reviews of all available evidence".
The new research is published in the journal of the American Heart Association.
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