Whole Grains and Disease Risk

Frank Thies*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Citations (Scopus)


Observational studies consistently showed positive associations between high whole grain intake and decreased risk of chronic disease such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. With regard to cancer, the evidence comes from observational studies and mainly concerns cancer of the digestive tract and breast cancer. Evidence from observational and intervention trials is much more substantial for cardiovascular disease, which will be the main focus of this chapter, and it has been suggested that three portions per day can provide some cardiovascular benefit. Whole grains contain many components that have been associated with disease risk reduction. However, the latest findings suggest that whole grain fibers could represent the main components responsible for the health benefits. There is convincing evidence that increased dietary intake of whole grains with high β-glucan content such as oats can significantly reduce blood cholesterol. Furthermore, the fermentation of fibers by the colonic bacteria leads to the release of potentially bioactive phytochemicals as well as short chain fatty acids, which can modulate gut hormonal production, regulate inflammation and blood pressure, and may modify cancer risk. However, well-controlled and sufficiently powered randomized studies are required to confirm these results. Further studies particularly looking at interactions between host, gut bacteria, and fiber components are also warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVegetarian and Plant-Based Diets in Health and Disease Prevention
EditorsFrançois Mariotti
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780128039694
ISBN (Print)9780128039687
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2017


  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Cholesterol
  • Evidence-based nutrition
  • Gut microbiota
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Phytochemicals
  • Short chain fatty acids
  • Whole grains


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