British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Whole grain intake and its cross-sectional association with obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation, diabetes and subclinical CVD: The MESA Study

Pamela L. Lutseya1, David R. Jacobs Jra1a2 c1, Sujata Koria3, Elizabeth Mayer-Davisa4, Steven Sheaa5, Lyn M. Steffena1, Moyses Szkloa6 and Russell Tracya7

a1 University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health; Minneapolis, MN, USA

a2 The Institute of Nutrition Research, University of Oslo; Oslo, Norway

a3 Cardiology Consultants of Orange County; Anaheim, CA, USA

a4 University of South Carolina Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities Arnold School of Public Health; Columbia, SC, USA

a5 Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and College of Physicians and Surgeons; New York, NY, USA

a6 Johns Hopkins University Department of Epidemiology; Baltimore, MD, USA

a7 University of Vermont Department of Pathology - Colchester Research Facility; Colchester, VT, USA


We examined the relationship between whole grain intake and obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation, diabetes and subclinical CVD using baseline data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Whole grain intake was measured by a 127-item FFQ in 5496 men and women free of CHD and previously known diabetes. Mean whole grain intake was 0·5 (sd 0·5) servings per d; biochemical measures reflect fasting levels. After adjustment for demographic and health behaviour variables, mean differences for the highest quintile of whole grain intake minus the lowest quintile of intake were 0·6 kg/m2 for BMI, 0·36 mg/l for C-reactive protein, 0·82 μmol/l for homocysteine, 0·15 mU/l*mmol/l for homeostasis model assessment (HOMA), 0·48 mU/l for serum insulin, 2·0 mg/dl for glucose and 5·7 % for prevalence of newly diagnosed impaired fasting glucose (glucose ≥ 100 mg/dl or diabetes medication). These differences represent 11–13 % of a standard deviation of BMI, HOMA, glucose and impaired fasting glucose, but 23 %, 52 % and 80 % of a standard deviation of homocysteine, C-reactive protein and insulin, respectively. An inverse association between whole grains and urine albumin excretion was suggested but retained statistical significance after adjustment only in Chinese and Hispanic participants. No associations were observed between whole grain intake and two subclinical disease measures: carotid intima-media thickness and coronary artery calcification. Concordant with previous research, whole grain intake was inversely associated with obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation and elevated fasting glucose or newly diagnosed diabetes. Counter to hypothesis, however, whole grain intake was unrelated to subclinical CVD.

(Received August 24 2006)

(Revised December 15 2006)

(Accepted January 31 2007)


c1 *Corresponding author: David R. Jacobs Jr., fax +1 612 624 0315, email


Abbreviations: A/kC, urine albumin:creatine ratio; CAC, coronary artery calcification; CRP, C-reactive protein; MESA, Multi-Ethnic Study of Atheroscelerosis