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Why Whole Grain Foods are Better for Older Adults

Only whole grains, not refined, reduce the risk of several major diseases


The next time you have toast or a sandwich, make sure you choose whole grain bread. Older adults who eat whole grain foods instead of refined grain products may be at lower risk for health conditions that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

The study also found that older adults who choose whole grains have a lower mortality rate from cardiovascular disease than people who don't eat whole grains.

About the Whole Grain Study
University of Maryland assistant professor Nadine Sahyoun, an expert in older adult nutrition, led a team of researchers who studied how eating whole grains affects the metabolic syndrome of older adults. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism, central obesity and high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

After looking at three-day food diaries of more than 500 people aged 60 and older (the average age was 72 for men and 73 for women), researchers found that the older adults who consumed more whole grains significantly lowered their risk of having metabolic syndrome.

Study subjects who consumed about three servings of whole grains daily, including whole grain bread, whole grain cereal and brown rice, had a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome than those who ate less than one serving per day.

"There have been studies that show the benefits [of whole grains] for a middle-aged population," said Sahyoun in a news release from UM. "Ours is the first study that shows the relationship between eating whole grains and the health benefits for older people, whose metabolic characteristics may be different from younger adults."

Whole Grains Benefit Everyone
Sahyoun’s team encourages everyone -- children and adults – to choose whole grain foods over refined food products.

"Whole-grain foods contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and other things that are removed during refining," said Sahyoun.

"We recommend that whole grain intake should start from a very young age to develop a healthy lifestyle. Cardiovascular changes and diabetes risk are starting to occur earlier now, especially due to the obesity epidemic."

Note: In its summary of food recommendations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages people to consume three or more ounces of whole grain products every day.

Source: January 2005 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.

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