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Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):459S-463S.

Plausible mechanisms for the protectiveness of whole grains.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN 55108, USA.


Dietary guidelines recommend the consumption of whole grains to prevent chronic diseases. Epidemiologic studies support the theory that whole grains are protective against cancer, especially gastrointestinal cancers such as gastric and colon can-cer, and cardiovascular disease. Components in whole grains that may be protective include compounds that affect the gut environment, such as dietary fiber, resistant starch, and oligosaccharides. Whole grains are also rich in compounds that function as antioxidants, such as trace minerals and phenolic compounds, and phytoestrogens, with potential hormonal effects. Other potential mechanisms whereby whole grains may protect against disease include binding of carcinogens and modulation of the glycemic response. Clearly, the range of protective substances in whole grains is impressive and advice to consume additional whole grains is justified. Further study is needed regarding the mechanisms behind this protection so that the most potent protective components of whole grains will be maintained when developing whole grains into acceptable food products for the public.

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