Eating whole-grain breakfast cereals seven or more times per week was associated with a lower risk of heart failure, according to an analysis of the observational Physicians' Health Study. Researchers presented findings of the study today at the American Heart Association's 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. For the present study, breakfast cereals that contain at least 25 percent oat or bran content were classified as whole grain cereals.
The analysis shows that those who ate a whole-grain breakfast cereal seven or more times per week were less likely (by 28 percent) to develop heart failure over the course of the study than those who never ate such cereal. The risk of heart failure decreased by 22 percent in those who ate a whole-grain breakfast cereal from two to six times per week and by 14 percent in those who ate a whole-grain breakfast cereal up to once per week.
According to researchers, if this data is confirmed by other studies, a healthy diet including whole-grain breakfast cereals along with other measures may help reduce the risk of heart failure.
"There are good and powerful arguments for eating a whole-grain cereal for breakfast," said Luc Djoussé, M.D., M.P.H., D.Sc., lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Aging at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. "The significant health benefits of whole-grain cereal are not just for kids, but also for adults. A whole-grain, high-fiber breakfast may lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol and prevent heart attacks."
Djoussé urges the general public to consider eating a regular whole-grain, high fiber breakfast for its overall health benefits.
In the Physicians' Health Study, the majority of the physicians in the study ate whole-grain cereals rather than refined cereals. Whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants and have a high fiber content. Of 10,469 physicians reporting cereal consumption at baseline, 8,266 (79 percent) ate whole-grain cereals compared to 2,203 (21 percent) who ate refined cereals.
Among the physicians who ate whole-grain breakfast cereals, 2,873 (35 percent) said they ate them seven or more times per week; 3,240 (39 percent) said two to six times per week; and 2,153 (26 percent) said they ate up to one cereal serving per week.
The findings reported here were based on annual detailed questionnaires about major heart events and reported breakfast cereal consumption at baseline. However, the results did not change when possible changes in cereal consumption over time (assessed at 18 weeks; two years; four years; six years; eight years; and ten years) were taken into account. Researchers conducted the study from 1982 to 2006. The average age of physicians in the study at baseline was 53.7 years. Djoussé hopes the findings of the Physicians' Health Study will encourage the general population to eat heart-healthy diets.
"The Physicians' Health Study shows that even in a population with overall healthy behavior, it is possible to see less heart failure in those who eat a whole-grain cereal breakfast," Djoussé said.
In the United States, foods considered "whole grain" contain 51 percent or more whole grain ingredients by weight per reference amount customarily consumed.
The Physicians' Health Study is supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD. Dr. Djoussé is principal investigator on a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD.
The study's co-author is J. Michael Gaziano, M.D.
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