ORLANDO — Regularly eating a bowl of whole-grain cereal was linked to a significant drop in the risk for heart failure in a study with more than 20,000 men.
“It's not just breakfast cereal, but the whole-grain concept, including whole-grain bread, pasta, and rice,” Dr. Luc Djoussé said at a conference on cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention sponsored by the American Heart Association.
Regular consumption of whole-grain cereal probably cuts the risk for heart failure by supplying fiber, nutrients, and phytoestrogens, added Dr. Djoussé, who is a physician and epidemiologist at Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He added that he believes the study to be the first of its kind.
The study used data collected prospectively from 21,410 men who participated in the Physicians' Health Study. Their average age at entry was 54 years (range, 40–86 years). The analysis excluded men with heart failure at the study's start, and those who failed to provide data on their consumption of breakfast cereal. Diet data were collected regularly during up to 24 years of follow-up. Whole-grain breakfast cereal was defined as a formulation that contained at least 25% oats or bran.
Over an average follow-up of 19.6 years, 1,018 men developed heart failure. The risk of heart failure was correlated with the frequency of eating whole-grain breakfast cereal. The men were divided into four categories of consumption: none (33%); one or fewer servings per week but more than none (23%); two to six servings per week (24%); and seven or more servings per week (19%). (The total is less than 100% because of rounding.)
In an analysis that controlled for baseline levels of potential confounders—including age, body mass index, smoking history, alcohol use, multivitamin use, diabetes, hypertension, and valvular heart disease—men who ate seven or more servings of whole-grain cereal a week had about a 30% reduced risk of developing heart failure, compared with men who did not eat whole-grain cereal. Men who ate two to six servings a week had about a 20% reduced risk. Both of these differences were statistically significant. No significant change was seen in men who ate one serving a week or less, and no link was seen between the consumption of refined breakfast cereals and heart failure risk.
The study did not receive any commercial funding.