A bowl of oatmeal a day could be the secret to a longer and healthier life, say scientists
Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph
A large bowl of oatmeal each day could protect against death from cancer, the biggest ever analysis of the benefits of whole grains has shown.
Oats have long been considered a superfood, staving off illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
But now a review by Harvard University has found that whole grains also appear to prevent early death and lower the chance of dying from cancer.
A meta-analysis of 12 studies involving nearly 800,000 people found that eating 70 grams of whole grains a day – the equivalent of a large bowl of oatmeal – lowers the risk of all-cause death by 22 per cent and death from cancer by 20 per cent. It also reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 20 per cent.
Scientists believe that whole grains help lower cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar, as well as making people feel full for longer, meaning they do not snack on unhealthy foods. The same effect could be gained from eating bran, quinoa or a mix of grains.
“Based on the solid evidence from this meta-analysis and numerous previous studies that collectively document beneficial effects of whole grains, I think health care 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,” said Dr Qi Sun, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.
Whole grains, where the bran and germ remain, contain 25 per cent more protein than refined grains, such as those used to make white flour, pasta and white rice.
Previous studies have shown that whole grains can boost bone mineral density, lower blood pressure, promote healthy gut bacteria and reduce the risk of diabetes.
APWhole grains contain 25 per cent more protein than refined grains and are believed to boost levels of antioxidants
One particular fibre found only in oats – called beta-glucan – has been found to lower cholesterol which can help to protect against heart disease.
A bioactive compound called avenanthramide is also thought to stop fat forming in the arteries, preventing heart attacks and strokes.
Whole grains are recommended in many dietary guidelines because they contain high levels of nutrients such as zinc, copper, manganese, iron and thiamine. They are also believed to boost levels of antioxidants, which combat free-radicals linked to cancer.
The new research suggests that if more people switched to whole grains, thousands of lives could be saved each year. Cumulatively, cancer kills around 160,000 people a year while coronary heart disease is responsible for around 73,000 deaths in the UK each year.
If more people switched to whole grains, thousands of lives could be saved each year
Health experts said the study proved that whole grains were essential for good health.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian 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. Choosing brown rice, wholewheat pasta, wholemeal or granary bread instead of white and swapping to whole grain breakfast cereals such as porridge are all simple ways to help us up our fibre and wholegrain intake.”
The researchers said a 16-gram serving of whole grain lowered the risk of total death by seven per cent, and cancer by 5 per cent.