Bran for Diabetics

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

—A Special Report from Victor Marchione, MD

Famous in both flake and muffin form, bran has just been found to protect diabetic women from heart disease — and from dying from it.

There is now a bundle of evidence that links whole grains with a reduced risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This study offers an interesting twist: type 2 diabetics could protect the heart with whole grains, despite the fact that they are at a higher risk of heart disease.

Of all the grains, Harvard researchers identified bran as a key grain. Among 7,822 women tracked for 26 years, those who consumed the most amount of bran were 28% less likely to die during that time span compared to those who ate the least amount of bran. They were 35% less likely to die of stroke or heart disease.

The study appears in a recent issue of “Circulation.”

The information is culled from the huge “Nurses’ Health Study” that began in 1976. Meant to reveal what impacts health over the long term, female nurses reported back every two years on their lifestyle, medical history and any diseases that materialized. In a quarter-century, 852 women died; 295 of them from heart disease or stroke.

In the end, the study uncovered that women in the top 20% of bran intake had a 28% lower risk of dying from any cause, and a 35% lower risk of dying from heart disease, than women in the lowest 20%.

So what is a high intake? Those in the group had about nine grams a day of bran. Nutrition experts say we should aim to get three to four reasonable servings a day, such as a piece of bread or a cup of cereal.

While the link here with bran is highly suggestive, you can’t yet paint a distinct line proving bran was responsible for the reduced risks. But, the researchers did account for lifestyle and dietary lifestyles (healthy overall diet, smoking, exercise, weight, etc.), and bran remained tied to reduced risk of heart problems. And that is quite significant.

What it means is that diabetic women can increase their bran intake and potentially help shield themselves from premature death. Bran, like all whole grains, is nutritious because it is not refined, and thus still intact. When you have the choice of whole grains, go for it. Rule of thumb: the first ingredient must be a whole grain.