NUTRITION
November 2, 2009

Whole Grains Lower BP Risk

Men who add more whole grains to their diet reduce their risk of hypertension or high blood pressure, a recent Harvard study has found. The study targeted men, but women see the same benefits

A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that men who add more whole grains to their diets have reduced risk for high blood pressure compared to men who eat very few. Though more is known about the connection between whole grain foods and women’s heart health, the researchers say their findings suggest the same benefits exist for men.

In the current study, the team led by Alan J. Flint looked at data from over 31,000 men who had participated in the Health Professionals Follow−up Study, which started in 1986. The men were between the ages of 40 and 75 when the study began, and none suffered from high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, or stroke at the time. After 18 years, about a third of the men had developed high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension.

The men in the top fifth of whole grain consumption ate 52 grams of the grains per day...and were 19% less likely to suffer from hypertension than men in the lowest fifth, who consumed about 3 g of whole grains per day.

The researchers analyzed the men’s eating habits, including what proportion of their diets whole grain foods accounted for. The men in the top fifth of whole grain consumption ate 52 grams of the grains per day, on average, and were 19% less likely to suffer from hypertension than men in the lowest fifth, who consumed about 3 g of whole grains per day. The findings were still true even when other variables – fruit and veggie consumption, exercise, and whether or not the men took vitamins – were removed from the analysis.

Flint and his colleagues also analyzed the individual components of whole grains to see which might have an effect on hypertension, and found that only the bran component by itself was linked to blood pressure, with men in the highest consumption group at a 15% reduced risk vs. men in the lowest.

“Whole grain” refers to the fact that the grains’ outer coating is retained, keeping the bran and germ – the healthy components of grains – intact. This comes in contrast to refined grains, whose outer shell is removed in the milling process, making them less nutritional, since they lack the fiber, iron, and vitamins of whole grains. The USDA recommends getting at least 3 ounces per day as an absolute minimum and the recommended daily dose is about twice this much, depending on age and sex.

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