TUESDAY, March 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) — In more good news for those who fill up on bran cereal and quinoa, a new study suggests that older people who eat a lot of whole grains may live longer than those who hardly ever eat them.
Even the obese and sedentary appear to gain a benefit, the researchers added.
People should “eat more whole grains and reduce intake of refined carbohydrates,” said study co-author Dr. Lu Qi, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Qi added that eating more grains may even help people lose weight: “There is no evidence that [a diet rich in] whole grain increases calorie intake, and it may lower it,” he said.
The finding does have limitations — almost all participants were white, for example — and it doesn’t directly prove that eating lots of whole grains caused people to live longer.
In the study, researchers looked at whole fiber — the whole seed of grain that’s used in grain products like bread and cereal.
The researchers tracked almost 370,000 people in the United States from the mid-1990s, when they took surveys, through the year 2009. They were all members of AARP and aged 50 to 71. The study excluded tens of thousands of people with conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, meaning that the results don’t apply to older people as a whole.
After adjusting their statistics so they wouldn’t be thrown off by high or low numbers of certain types of people, the researchers found that those who ate the most fiber were 17 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who ate the least. However, the risk of death during the study was low overall: About 12 percent (just over 46,000) of the people died during the study period.
Those who ate the most fiber were more likely to be educated, less likely to be obese and less likely to smoke than those who ate the least, the study found. They also ate much less red meat, on average. But the life span benefit held up even when researchers adjusted their statistics to eliminate the impact of factors such as obesity and poorer health.