Older adults who consumed nearly three servings of whole-grain foods daily were significantly less likely to have "metabolic syndrome" that increases the chances of developing diabetes and heart disease, according to a study funded in part by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
People must have at least three of the following health risksabdominal obesity, high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control, low HDL "good" cholesterol and high blood fatsto be considered to have metabolic syndrome.
The findings were published in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The lead coauthor on the study was Nadine Sahyoun, formerly with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Mass., and now at the University of Maryland-College Park. Other coauthors were Paul Jacques and Nicola McKeown at HNRCA; Xinli Zhang at the University of Maryland-College Park, and Wenyen Juan with USDA.
Between 1981 and 1984, the researchers studied three-day food records and blood tests provided by 535 healthy male and female participants older than 60. They also conducted a subsequent 12- to 15-year follow-up to assess the causes of death among participants during those years.
The participants were ranked into four groups based on lowest to highest whole-grain intakes. Based on the middle value for each group's intake, Group 1 had 0.3 serving daily, Group 2 had 0.9 serving daily, Group 3 had 1.5 servings daily, and Group 4 had 2.9 servings daily.
Those in the group with the highest whole-grain consumption were half as likely to have metabolic syndrome as those in consuming the lowest amounts of whole grains. That pattern was seen independent of gender, ethnicity and other lifestyle factors. Those in the group with the highest whole-grain intake also were found to have significantly less risk of dying from heart disease than those in the group with the lowest intake. However, whether the participants changed their diets during the follow-up period is unknown.
The authors concluded that adults of all ages should increase the amount of whole grains they eat to three or more servings daily.