Health Benefits of Dietary Whole Grains: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses

J Chiropr Med. 2017 Mar;16(1):10-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2016.08.008. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to review the effectiveness of the role of whole grain as a therapeutic agent in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity.

Methods: An umbrella review of all published meta-analyses was performed. A PubMed search from January 1, 1980, to May 31, 2016, was conducted using the following search strategy: (whole grain OR whole grains) AND (meta-analysis OR systematic review). Only English language publications that provided quantitative statistical analysis on type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and weight loss were retrieved.

Results: Twenty-one meta-analyses were retrieved for inclusion in this umbrella review, and all the meta-analyses reported statistically significant positive benefits for reducing the incidence of type 2 diabetes (relative risk [RR] = 0.68-0.80), cardiovascular disease (RR = 0.63-0.79), and colorectal, pancreatic, and gastric cancers (RR = 0.57-0.94) and a modest effect on body weight, waist circumference, and body fat mass. Significant reductions in cardiovascular and cancer mortality were also observed (RR = 0.82 and 0.89, respectively). Some problems of heterogeneity, publication bias, and quality assessment were found among the studies.

Conclusion: This review suggests that there is some evidence for dietary whole grain intake to be beneficial in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal, pancreatic, and gastric cancers. The potential benefits of these findings suggest that the consumption of 2 to 3 servings per day (~45 g) of whole grains may be a justifiable public health goal.

Keywords: Whole Grains, Meta-analysis, Diabetes Mellitus, Cardiovascular Diseases, Neoplasms, Obesity.

Publication types

  • Review