Starting the day with a bowl of cereal or porridge could add years to your life, scientists claim.
A diet high in whole grains and cereal fibres reduces the risk of premature death from chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes.
Whole grains are the entire seed of a plant used for food and contain the germ, bran and endospore, such as wheat, oat and quinoa.
They are rich sources of dietary fibre and other nutrients such as minerals and antioxidants.
The Harvard Public School of Health research found eating an average of 34g (1.2 ounces) of whole grains a day was associated with a 17 per cent reduced risk of premature death.
This was compared with compared to those consuming an average of 3.98g (0.13 ounces).
Even when taking into account factors such as health, physical activity and obesity the reduction remained the same.
The researchers also assessed the risk of getting various conditions.
A diet high in whole grains was associated with an 11 per cent reduced risk of death from respiratory disease, and a 48 per cent reduction in the risk of diabetes.
Meanwhile, a high consumption of cereal fibres had a 15 per cent and 34 per cent reduced risk of death from cancer and diabetes.
The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, suggest that the cereal fibre component of whole grains accounts for the actions of the whole grains, and that cereal fibre-rich whole grain foods may have health benefits.
But because it was an observational study, researchers could not confirm that whole grains and fibre are causing this reduced risk.
However they believe the cereal fibre found in both food types – cereal fibre and whole grains – may have protective effects thanks to multiple protective properties such as anti-inflammation.
Associate Professor of Nutrition, Dr Lu Qi, said: ‘Our study indicates that intake of whole grains and cereal fibre may reduce the risk of all-cause mortality and death from chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease.’
The study involved involved an analysis of the the results of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.
This involved 500,000 members of AARP – a membership organisation of people aged over 50 from California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and the metropolitan areas of Georgia and Detroit.
In 1993, volunteers were sent a questionnaire to gather information on their health and diet – based on frequency of intake for various food types including portion size.
Those who indicated in their initial questionnaires that they had cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes or end-stage renal disease were excluded from the study.
This meant a total of 367,442 participants were included in this particular research and were followed for an average of 14 years.
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