October 27, 2008
Whole Grains Cut Heart Risks

Don't eat that white bread.

October 27, 2008, St. Louis, MO - About 5 million people in the United States suffer from heart failure (HF). While some reports indicate that changes to diet can reduce HF risk, few large, prospective studies have been conducted. In a new study researchers observed over 14,000 participants for more than 13 years and found that whole grain consumption lowered HF risk, while egg and high-fat dairy consumption raised risk. Other food groups did not directly affect HF risk. The results are published in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Diet is among the prominent lifestyle factors that influence major HF risk factors: coronary artery disease, obesity, diabetes and insulin resistance and hypertension. Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, researchers from the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota and the Department of Epidemiology and Cardiovascular Diseases Program, University of North Carolina, analyzed the results of baseline exams of more than 14,000 White and African American adults conducted in 1987-89, with follow-up exams completed during 1990-92, 1993-95, and 1996-98. Four field centers participated in the study: Forsyth County, NC; Jackson, MS; northwest Minneapolis suburbs, MN; and Washington County, MD. The study also collected demographic characteristics and lifestyle factors, as well as other medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension.

Beware of eggs. Avoid milk fat.

Writing in the article, Jennifer A. Nettleton, Ph.D., states, "Although risk estimates were modest (7% lower risk per 1-serving increase in whole grain intake; 8% greater risk per 1-serving increase in high-fat dairy intake; 23% greater risk per 1-serving increase in egg intake), the totality of literature in this area suggests it would be prudent to recommend that those at high risk of HF increase their intake of whole grains and reduce intake of high-fat dairy and eggs, along with following other healthful dietary practices consistent with those recommended by the American Heart Association."

One of the reasons some potentially beneficial dietary factors tend not to show up in big dietary studies is that some potentially healthy foods aren't eaten much. How many people eat nuts or berries every day? I happen to eat berries every day. But I'm a statistical outlier.

If we are going to go to the trouble of genetically engineering foods to have more healthful compounds in them then we need to know which compounds would be best to engineer into foods. Are anthocyanins really the ticket?

In this study the scientists expressed two genes from snapdragon that induce the production of anthocyanins in snapdragon flowers. The genes were turned on in tomato fruit. Anthocyanins accumulated in tomatoes at higher levels than anything previously reported for metabolic engineering in both the peel and flesh of the fruit. The fruit are an intense purple colour.

The scientists tested whether these elevated levels actually had an effect on health. In a pilot test, the lifespan of cancer-susceptible mice was significantly extended when their diet was supplemented with the purple tomatoes compared to supplementation with normal red tomatoes.

It'll be easier to eat healthily 20 years from now both because we'll know better what helps and also because food will be genetically engineered to contain what helps and not to contain what hurts.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 October 27 11:12 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

Bob Badour said at October 28, 2008 10:49 AM:
Beware of eggs.

That's a pretty dumb recommendation as far as blanket statements go. As protein sources, eggs are about the best available. The article does not mention whether they looked at bacon or sausage consumption, and how many of those people eating eggs who later had heart failure do you suppose had them with a side order of smoked meat product like bacon and/or sausage? Did they measure whether there was any difference among egg eaters who limit yolk consumption versus those who do not?

Mthson said at October 28, 2008 3:16 PM:

I've replaced milk consumption with limited amounts of yogurt with live cultures. Instead of cereal with milk, I have yogurt with mixed nuts.

Faruq Arshad said at October 28, 2008 5:08 PM:

if milk is so bad,then is it supposedly full of so many nutrients and vitamins? Obviously for infants and not grown ups. But nevertheless, is milk really that bad for you?

Bob Badour said at October 28, 2008 7:08 PM:


I didn't object to Randall's recommendation about milk fat because he limited it to the fat. Skim milk and skim milk products have a lot less fat and a lot less saturated fat than whole milk and whole milk products while still delivering almost all of the other nutrients.

Of course, that doesn't do anything about the antibiotics and hormones used in the modern industrial dairy.

For fat soluble nutrients, I think one is better off eating oily fish in any case.

Randall Parker said at October 28, 2008 7:57 PM:


What I've previously read on eggs in another study is that they start boosting risks around 7 eggs a week.

As for eating egg whites: We get plenty of protein already. It is the yolk that has the other nutrients. But the yolk also appears to have stuff that makes you less healthy.

You want to eat lots of egg whites? Sure, have at it. But most people do not find egg whites by themselves very appealing.

tom said at October 29, 2008 1:28 PM:

what form did these people eat eggs in? McDonalds biscuits? Breakfast hotpockets? I try to only eat DHA-eggs...

Doesn't this contradict the study that showed a lower carb diet was more effective helping people lose weight and improve their cholesterol?

Bob Badour said at October 29, 2008 2:06 PM:

Did the other study you now mention control for bacon and sausage consumption? If someone is eating bacon and 2 eggs every second day and gets heart disease, I don't see why we should condemn egg yolks per se.

Assuming we get plenty of protein has to assume we get it somewhere. What do you think is healthier? To limit red meat, pork and smoked meat products? Or to beware of eggs? Most people get protein from sources far less healthy than from eggs.

A whole egg and an egg white or two makes a tasty omelette or scrambled eggs that most people do find very appealing. And in a breakfast sandwich, I suspect most people wouldn't even notice a difference if one used all egg whites.

Bob Badour said at October 29, 2008 2:10 PM:


Doesn't this contradict the study that showed a lower carb diet was more effective helping people lose weight and improve their cholesterol?

Egg yolks have some carbs in them. A ketogenic diet, which will help people lose weight and rapidly improve all blood markers, requires one to eliminate egg yolks for the duration of the reducing diet.

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