While the media is increasingly focusing on childhood obesity and nutrition, a new study suggests that elderly people who eat more cereal-based foods are less likely to develop heart disease.
Older people who ate the most fibre from grain sources were 21 per cent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease over an average of almost nine years than those who ate the least cereal fibre, report researchers from the University of Washington and Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle.
Dark breads made with wheat, rye and pumpernickel proved most protective out of all fibre sources while fibre from fruit and vegetables, also studied, had no significant effect, said the authors.
People older than 65 years are the fastest-growing segment of the population in many developed countries and account for the majority of cardiovascular disease, morbidity, mortality, and health care expenditures, observed the authors in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But some believe that the influence of dietary habits on risk may be less pronounced in elderly persons, when atherosclerosis is more advanced.
The study included 3588 men and women aged 65 years or older, and free of known CVD at baseline in 1989-1990. Usual dietary fibre consumption was assessed at baseline using a 99-item food frequency questionnaire and researchers measured the rates of incident CVD (combined stroke, ischemic heart disease death, and nonfatal myocardial infarction). After an average 9-year follow-up period, there were 811 incident CVD events. After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, education, diabetes, smoking and daily physical activity, cereal fibre consumption was found to be inversely associated with incident CVD, with 21 per cent lower risk in the highest quintile of intake, compared with the lowest quintile.
In similar analyses, neither fruit fibre intake nor vegetable fibre intake were associated with incident CVD. When CVD events were separately evaluated, higher cereal fibre intake was associated with lower risk of total stroke and ischemic stroke and a trend toward lower risk of ischemic heart disease death.
The authors concluded that their research supports recommendations for elderly individuals to increase consumption of dietary cereal fibre.