Parents have been told to avoid the cereal aisle at all costs unless they want to increase their child’s unnecessary sugar consumption. However, not all cereal is rich in sugar and fat. Whole grain cereals, in fact, are rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients. A recent study conducted at the Harvard Public School of Health has revealed that a diet high in whole grains and cereal fiber can help lower your risk for premature death and death caused by various chronic diseases.

"Our study indicates that intake of whole grains and cereal fiber may reduce the risk of all-cause mortality and death from chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease," lead researcher Lu Qi said in a statement.

Lu Qi and his colleagues gathered data on 566,339 members of the AARP from California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and the metropolitan areas of Georgia and Detroit. Participants answered questionnaires back in 1993 that used frequency of intake for various food types, including portion size to determine their health and diet. Researchers excluded participants who indicated that they had cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or end-stage renal disease.

Whole grains refer to the entire seed of plant that is used for food, which contains the germ, bran, and endospore, such as wheat, oat, and quinoa.

Participants who consumed an average of 34 grams (g) of whole grains per 1,000 kcal per day were able to lower their risk for premature death by 17 percent, compared to those who consumed an average of 3.98g of whole grains. Consuming around 10.22g per 1,000 kcal of cereal fibers a day led to a 19 percent lower risk for overall risk for death compared to 2.02g per 1,000 kcal per day. Lowered risk for premature death remained when researchers accounted for health, exercise, and obesity status.

“Our findings should motivate future studies especially clinical trials and experimental studies to further testify the beneficial effects of whole grains and potential effective components such as fiber and other nutrients, and explore mechanisms," Lu Qi added.

After digging a little further, the research team found that consuming cereal high in whole grains can lower risk for death from respiratory disease by 11 percent and diabetes by 49 percent, while consuming more cereal fiber reduced the risk for dying from cancer by 15 percent and diabetes by 34 percent. While examining the relationships among whole grains and cereal fiber, Lu Qi found that without cereal fiber the benefits of whole grains were greatly diminished suggesting that cereal fiber is behind whole grains’ heathy advantages.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a single serving of most breakfast cereals contains the recommended amount of folic acid that a woman needs each day.

Source: BMC Medicine. 2015.