Whole grain consumption and weight gain: a review of the epidemiological evidence, potential mechanisms and opportunities for future research

Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 Feb;62(1):25-9. doi: 10.1079/PNS2002232.


The epidemiological data that directly examine whole grain v. refined grain intake in relation to weight gain are sparse. However, recently reported studies offer insight into the potential role that whole grains may play in body-weight regulation due to the effects that the components of whole grains have on hormonal factors, satiety and satiation. In both clinical trials and observational studies the intake of whole-grain foods was inversely associated with plasma biomarkers of obesity, including insulin, C-peptide and leptin concentrations. Whole-grain foods tend to have low glycaemic index values, resulting in lower postprandial glucose responses and insulin demand. High insulin levels may promote obesity by altering adipose tissue physiology and by enhancing appetite. The fibre content of whole grains may also affect the secretion of gut hormones, independent of glycaemic response, that may act as satiety factors. Future studies may examine whether whole grain intake is directly related to body weight, and whether the associations are primarily driven by components of the grain, including dietary fibre, bran or germ.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Edible Grain / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Solubility
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Insulin