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Bran Reduces Deaths from Heart Disease

Diane Fennell

May 14, 2010

Eating significant amounts of bran, the nutrient-rich outer layer of whole grains, is associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions in women with Type 2 diabetes, according to new research from Harvard University. People with diabetes have two to three times the risk of heart disease and stroke compared to those in the general population.

The researchers looked at data from 7,822 women with Type 2 diabetes who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, a study of over 120,000 female registered nurses in the United States. The participants, all of whom had been diagnosed after age 30, completed questionnaires every two years that included information about their diets. Using this information, the researchers calculated the amount of whole grains, bran, germ (grain core), and cereal fiber each woman ate daily, then divided the participants into five groups based on their consumption of whole-grain foods. Women who consumed the most bran (9.73 grams on average) ate over 10 times as much each day as women who ate the least bran (0.8 grams).

Over up to 26 years of follow-up, 852 women died, including 295 from heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions. After adjustment for age, women in the top 20% for consumption of whole grains, bran, germ, or cereal fiber were found to have a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and all causes. After further adjusting for lifestyle factors such as physical activity and smoking, the decreased risk associated with bran remained statistically significant. The researchers believe that bran might help the heart by reducing inflammation.

According to senior study author Lu Qi, MD, PhD, “These findings suggest a potential benefit of whole grain, and particularly bran, in reducing death and cardiovascular disease risk in diabetic patients.” And in an interview with WebMD, Robert Eckel, MD, a spokesman for the American Heart Association, noted that “Many diabetics still believe they should limit carbohydrates, including complex carbohydrates. Certainly refined grains and simple sugars raise blood sugar and should be limited. But it looks like eating whole grains is not only safe, but beneficial.”

To learn more, read the article “Whole Grain, Bran Associated With Lower Risk of Death in Diabetic Women” or see the study’s abstract in Circulation.

And for some great ways to incorporate bran into your diet, check out the following recipes:

Autumn bran muffins
Banana nut bran muffins
Carrot oat bran muffins



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