Eating Whole Grains May Help You Live Longer, Study Says

A Harvard study associated frequent whole grain consumption with a 22 percent lower mortality risk.

It’s tough being a carb lover in a world of veggie noodles, cauliflower rice, and gluten-free everything. A new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, however, may make it a little easier.

The study, published Monday in Circulation, found that people who eat lots of whole grains—about four servings per day—may live longer than people with diets light on grains. Compared to those who eschewed carbs, grain-ivores had a 22 percent lower total mortality risk, a 23 percent lower chance of dying of cardiovascular disease, and a 20 percent lower risk of dying of cancer.

Harvard’s findings are based on a meta-analysis of 14 different studies, which tracked about 786,000 people between 1970 and 2010. The research’s main limitation, the researchers write, is that some studies began before there was a standardized, reliable definition for what constitutes a whole grain.

The study corroborates prior research that linked whole grains to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and poor gut health. The Harvard researchers hypothesize, according to a statement, that “multiple bioactive compounds in whole grains could contribute to their health benefits, and that high fiber content may lower cholesterol production and glucose response and increase satiety.”

Before you pound a bread bowl in celebration, please note that the study focused on whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, and bran. Refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, have been linked to everything from obesity to heart disease—so, sadly, this is not an excuse to start the all-baguette diet of your dreams.

May we recommend a delightful quinoa dish instead?