By Margarita Nahapetyan
Women with type 2 diabetes who consume a diet rich in bran-containing whole grains are at a significantly lower risk of developing heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, report scientists from Harvard University.
In the newly released research, the scientists analyzed data from the ongoing Nurses Health Study, which appears to be one of the largest and most detailed studies of women's health in the United States. Almost 8,000 nurses aged 30 years and up with type 2 diabetes were followed and studied for a period of nearly 30 years.
Every two years, all the women were asked to fill out appropriate questionnaires where they reported in details their health and lifestyles, including the information about the foods they consumed. The questionnaires were administered so the investigators could estimate the participants' dietary intake of whole grains, in specific the components of cereal fiber, bran and germ.
The results revealed that over almost three decades covered by the study, the participants in the top 20 per cent for the consumption of whole grain products, which included bran and fiber, were at a 35 per cent less risk for dying from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. These women had also a 28 per cent lower risk for dying from all other causes when compared to their counterparts in the bottom 20 per cent for the whole grains intake.
After taking into consideration and accounting for other cardiovascular risk factors, bran intake was strongly associated with a lower risk of death from heart attack and stroke, said Dr. Lu Qi, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a principal author of the study. Dr. Qi added that whole grains, especially bran that is rich in fiber and vitamins, may protect the heart by decreasing the levels of inflammation in the body.
In spite of the fact that the new research involved only women, the experts believe that the benefits of consuming whole grain products most probably will extend to men with diabetes as well. In order to confirm this, the investigators from Harvard are carrying out a similar study in men.
Bran is the hard, rich in fiber outer layer of grains like wheat and oats. When these grains are being processed, this layer is often removed. Many people wonder what grains are healthy for them. Nutritionists say that popcorn, brown rice, whole-wheat flower, and long-cooking oatmeal are whole grain foods that undergo a minimal procession. According to the American Heart Association recommendations, prior to buying a product, people should look for the words "whole" or "whole grain" before the grain name in the ingredient list. In addition, the whole grain should be the first product in the list.
The findings are detailed online in May 10 issue of the journal Circulation.