Whole-Grain Diet Can Help Regulate Blood Pressure

Read Time: 3:50
Published: Oct 31st, 2016
Whole-Grain Diet Can Help Blood Pressure
Article Updated:January 9th, 2021

A recent study shows that eating the right grains reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is key since, as we age, cardiovascular disease can lead to many health issues, including long-term health care and death.

According to Cleveland Clinic research, a diet rich in whole grains may significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in overweight and obese adults who are younger than age 50.

A team of Cleveland Clinic researchers led by John Kirwan, Ph.D., in collaboration with Nestlé Research Center, conducted one of the most extensive controlled studies of its kind on whole grains.

Key Regulator of Blood Pressure

The findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, suggests that whole grains can be a key regulator of blood pressure and could provide an effective nutritional strategy to reduce cardiovascular-related deaths and disorders.

“Heart disease and strokes are a leading cause of death in the United States,”  “This research shows that eating whole grains reduces the risk factors for heart disease.”

Dr. John Kirwan, Metabolic Translational Research Center

Dr. Kirwan is the Metabolic Translational Research Center director, which is part of Cleveland Clinic's Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute. Strokes are one of the leading causes of extended-long-term health care, which can impact the quality of life, create financial issues, impact a spouse or partner's lifestyle, and cause a burden on family members.

In the study, 33 overweight and obese adults followed either a whole-grain diet or a refined grain diet for two eight-week periods. The diets were the same, except for whether they consisted of whole grains or refined grains.

At the beginning and end of each diet period, the participants underwent three days of metabolic testing in a clinical research setting. Those on the whole-grain diet saw a three-fold greater improvement in their diastolic blood pressure than when they ate the refined-grain diet.

Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers. The systolic is the top number, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heartbeats. Diastolic is the bottom number, which measures the pressure in the heartbeats. Diastolic is the bottom number, which measures the pressure in the heartbeats.

Increased Blood Pressure Assoaited with Health Issues

Before age 50, elevated diastolic blood pressure is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk.

One way to reduce high blood pressure and maintain adequate blood pressure is to include whole-grains in your diet. Some experts suggest including whole-grain wheat and oat-based recipes in meals.

Some studies suggest ingesting three portions of whole-grain foods per day considerably reduced the risk of high blood pressure.

"Based on large populations studies, the improvement seen after the whole grain diet equates to reducing the risk of death from heart disease by almost a third, and the risk of death from a stroke by two-fifths."

“The result that was most intriguing was the greater improvement in diastolic blood pressure after the whole-grain diet; diastolic blood pressure is the pressure associated with the relaxation of the heart and blood vessels,”  The number was reduced by a substantial amount.”

Dr.  John Kirwan 

Hypertension – or high blood pressure – is a common obesity-related condition that affects about 30 percent of U.S. adults and is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. As people with elevated diastolic blood pressure get older, they are at higher-than-average risk of developing elevated systolic blood pressure. The increased risk of stroke also increases the risk of extended care, as well.

All participants saw substantial reductions in body weight, fat loss, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol during both diet periods. However, the researchers say, these differences were due to the participants changing their usual eating habits to the carefully controlled diets.

“Both were healthy diets, and both diets had a similar amount of calories and were from healthy foods. The only difference was the whole grain.”

"More research is needed to figure out what it is about whole grains that caused the drop in diastolic blood pressure."

Dr. John Kirwan 

In the meantime, the study shows that it’s a smart move to add whole grains to your diet and drop the refined grains, he says.

The recommendations from the United States Department of Agriculture is for Americans to eat 50 grams of whole grain a day, he says. Currently, U.S. adults are consuming about 16 grams a day on average.

“So we have a lot of room for improvement — and that improvement could improve your cardiovascular profile, and reduce your risk for disease.”

Dr. John Kirwan 


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An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

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LTC News Contributor James Kelly
James Kelly

Contributor Since
August 21st, 2017

LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

About the Author

LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

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