Breakfast `key to health'

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The Independent Online
A BOWL of high-fibre cereal for breakfast may help women to cut their risk of heart disease by a third, a study has found.

Breakfast cereal appears to be more effective than other sources of fibre such as fruit and vegetables in reducing heart disease risk but the reasons remain puzzling, say US and Swedish researchers.

A study of almost 69,000 women aged 37 to 64 followed over 10 years found those with the highest fibre intake had the lowest rate of heart disease. The women were part of the celebrated Nurse's Study, a long- term research project that has yielded a mass of valuable findings, and mirror similar earlier results for men. The overall risk for those eating the most fibre was 23 per cent lower, allowing for differences in age and other factors such as consumption of vitamins. For every 10-gram increase in fibre intake, heart disease risk fell by 19 per cent, says the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the authors from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Harvard Medical School in Boston, found some sources of fibre are better than others. Only fibre found in breakfast cereals was strongly associated with a reduced risk of heart disease of 37 per cent for each 5 gram per day increase in fibre consumption.

Although fibre is known to reduce cholesterol levels, its effect is believed to be small. On the basis of current knowledge, a five-gram increase in fibre should reduce heart disease risk by a maximum of 7.5 per cent, much less than the 37 per cent revealed by the study.

The authors say: "The effect ... is larger than would be expected from the beneficial effects on blood cholesterol and suggests other biological mechanisms are involved."