In a study published in the journal BMC Medicine, researchers have shown that eating whole grains, like quinoa, offers reduced risks of premature death due to various conditions. Whole grains contain the entirety of a plant's seed used for food, including the endosperm, bran and germ.

Researchers analyzed results from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, which involved over 566,000 AARP members from across the states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey, Louisiana, California, Florida, Detroit and Georgia. The AARP is an organization for individuals aged 50 years old and above.

For the current study, however, the researchers only worked with 367,442 subjects because those who already had end-stage renal disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke were excluded. The large cohort study began in 1993. A 14-year follow-up period was then set in place afterwards.

Based on the results, the researchers discovered that eating 34 grams (1.2 ounces) of whole grains for every 1,000 kcal every day resulted in up to a 17 percent drop in risks of premature death compared to just consuming 3.98 grams (0.13 ounces). Even after taking into consideration physical activity and overall health status, the results remained the same.

When broken down into separate chronic diseases, the results showed that whole grains led to a 48 percent reduction in death risk due to diabetes. For respiratory disease, risks dropped by 11 percent for those who consumed a lot of whole grains.

Researchers are not able to positively confirm that the drop in risks of premature death was due to eating whole grains but they believe fiber in whole grains offers protective benefits that shield against inflammation, for instance.

"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," said Lu Qi, lead researcher for the study.

Susan Cho, Albert Lee, Min Xu and Tao Huang also contributed to the study.

Back in the day, quinoa was called the "mother of all grains," possibly a reference to the high nutrition value it offers. Each cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 58 percent of the RDA for manganese, 30 percent of the RDA for magnesium, 28 percent of the RDA for phosphorus, 19 percent of the RDA for folate, 18 percent of the RDA for copper, 15 percent of the RDA for zinc, 9 percent of the RDA for potassium and over 10 percent of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6. The whole grain also has small traces of vitamin E, niacin and calcium.

Photo: Rachel Hathaway | Flickr 

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