Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Human Studies to Support a Quantitative Recommendation for Whole Grain Intake in Relation to Type 2 Diabetes

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 22;10(6):e0131377. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131377. eCollection 2015.


Background: Due to the increasing evidence of their health benefits, whole grains are recommended for consumption worldwide. Such recommendations are, however, rarely quantitative. Our aim was to perform a quantitative evaluation of the relationship between whole grain consumption and the occurrence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) to support a recommendation on the daily consumption of whole grains.

Methods and findings: We conducted a systematic review by searching three bibliographic databases. We included human studies addressing the relationship between whole grain consumption and T2D occurrence, and providing quantitative information on daily intake of whole grains. A dose-response meta-regression analysis between whole grain intake and T2D occurrence was performed, using a hierarchical mixed least square linear regression model. Eight observational studies were included (all but one prospective), with a total of 15,573 cases of T2D among 316,051 participants. Quantitative meta-regression demonstrated a significant linear inverse relationship between whole grain intake and T2D occurrence (P<0.0001), with an overall absolute reduction of 0.3% in the T2D rate for each additional 10 g of whole grain ingredient consumed daily. The association persisted when adjusted on sex, age, country, study design, follow up duration, and mode of report of whole grain intakes (as foods or ingredients).

Conclusions: The meta-regression model made it possible to estimate the decrease in T2D risk corresponding to various changes in whole grain intakes, and the results contribute to setting up quantitative recommendations. For instance, consuming three servings of whole grain foods (45 g of whole grain ingredients) daily would induce a 20% relative reduction in the T2D risk as compared to consuming a half serving (7.5 g of whole grain ingredients). These results should be considered for future recommendations, by considering the actual whole grain intake of the concerned populations. The systematic review protocol was published on the PROSPERO register (CRD42013006925).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diet therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Whole Grains / metabolism*

Grants and funding

This work was sponsored by Mondelez France R&D SAS (6 rue René Razel – Bâtiment K 91400 SACLAY France). The funder provided support in the form of salaries for authors [AM, SV], but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.