The association with lower blood pressure was stronger for whole grain cereals than refined grain cereals, the researchers found.
Kochar speculates the effect is partly because of whole grain cereal's high fiber content. Whole grains are also a good source of micronutrients, and they increase insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation, he said.
Commenting on the study, Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said that "there has long been evidence that whole grain intake can lower blood pressure fairly acutely, and it is associated with lower blood pressure over time."
A number of mechanisms may produce this beneficial effect, he said. "They contain vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, that may directly relax blood vessels," Katz said. Another contributing factor is soluble fiber, "which helps lower blood sugar, lipid and insulin levels, and, in turn, lowers blood pressure," he added.
There's another obvious, but often overlooked explanation, Katz said: "Eating more whole grains means eating less of something else."
"When one considers the many high-sodium fast-food breakfast options, it may be as much what a bowl of cereal knocks out of one's diet, as what it puts in, that helps lower blood pressure and enhance health," Katz said.
More cereal might mean fewer scones and donuts, for example.
Experts note that research presented at meetings has not been subjected to the same type of rigorous scrutiny given to research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
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