People with high blood pressure may find that a diet rich in whole grains can help manage the disease as effectively as anti-hypertensive medications do. A recent study found that consuming three portions of whole-grain foods each day reduces the risk of hypertension which in turn reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aneurysm, and kidney failure.
systolic blood pressure was significantly reduced in the whole-grain foods group compared to the group who continued to eat the refined grains. A decrease in systolic blood pressure of 5-6 mm Hg was observed in the group that ate the whole-grain foods.
Scottish researchers set out to assess the effects of consuming three portions of whole grain foods (wheat or a mixture of wheat and oats) per day on cardiovascular disease risk factors, including blood pressure. Over 200 middle-aged healthy people were fed a diet high in refined grains for four weeks. Then the groups were randomly divided with one group consuming a diet that included three servings of whole grains each day for 12 weeks, and the other group continuing with the control diet (refined grains). Study participants were encouraged to consume their normal diet other than their apportioned servings of grain foods.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrated that systolic blood pressure was significantly reduced in the whole-grain foods group compared to the group who continued to eat the refined grains. A decrease in systolic blood pressure of 5-6 mm Hg was observed in the group that ate the whole-grain foods. Systolic BP is the top number in a blood pressure reading. A lower number reflects the heart's ability to push blood out into the body without resistance from constricted blood vessels.
Dietary factors were also found to lower blood pressure in the DASH and DASH-Sodium studies with whole-grains being a star player. The DASH diet focuses on providing liberal amounts of potassium, magnesium, and calcium through a diet high in fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts while the DASH-Sodium diet also reduces the sodium content of one’s diet.
All grains start out as whole grains meaning they have the germ, endosperm, and bran of the grain intact. When grains are refined, the germ and bran are removed and only the endosperm remains. Removal of the germ and bran results in the loss of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate; minerals such as iron, magnesium, and selenium; and fiber. Whole-grains also contain protective antioxidants in amounts close to or exceeding those found in fruits and vegetables.
Whole grains include foods like oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, and whole wheat breads and crackers. To be sure a product is made from whole grains, look for the word "whole" on the package, and make sure a whole grain appears as the first item in the ingredient list.
The study was published in the October 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.