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Food and health

Long-term whole-grain rye and wheat consumption and their associations with selected biomarkers of inflammation, endothelial function, and cardiovascular disease



Whole-grain (WG) intake has been associated with a lowered risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers in epidemiological studies. Reduced subclinical inflammation could be one important mechanism behind such associations. This study investigated whether high long-term WG rye and wheat intakes were associated with lower concentrations of biomarkers of inflammation, endothelial function, and protein biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease.


We assessed WG intake by food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) and by measuring alkylresorcinols (ARs) in plasma and adipose tissue, respectively. Selected biomarkers in free-living 109 women and 149 men were analyzed from two clinical subcohort studies (Swedish Mammography Cohort-Clinical (SMC-C) and Cohort of Swedish Men-Clinical (COSM-C), respectively. Total WG rye and wheat (WGRnW) and the ratio of WG rye to WG rye and wheat (WGR/WGRnW) were estimated from FFQs. ARs were measured in plasma and adipose tissue by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and the biomarkers by ELISA.


We found no consistent associations between WG intake assessed by different methods and the selected biomarkers. However, WGRnW intake was inversely associated with cathepsin S (P-trend < 0.05) and total AR and C17:0/C21:0 in plasma were inversely associated with the endostatin concentration (P-trend < 0.05) adjusted for BMI, age, and sex.


The results give limited support to the hypothesis that a high WG wheat and rye intake is associated with lower concentrations of common biomarkers of inflammation and CVD that have previously been reported inversely associated with WG intake or an overall healthy lifestyle.

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We would like to thank Janicka Nilsson, Emma Myhre Herelius, and Elisabeth Sekli for performing AR analyses in plasma and in adipose tissue and Niclas Håkansson for calculations of dietary data.


The funding was provided by Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS, 2011-520; 2019-02200), the Swedish Research Council- Medicine (2017-05840). We acknowledge the Swedish Infrastructure for Medical Population-based Life-course Environmental Research (SIMPLER) for providing database; SIMPLER receives funding through the Swedish Research Council under the grant no 2017-00644.

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The authors’ responsibilities were as follows—RL: conceived the study, supervised analysis of samples and data, contributed to manuscript writing, and had overall responsibility of this study; NAMO: conducted the analysis of dietary data, statistical analysis and wrote the first draft of the manuscript; HW: performed analysis of AR in adipose tissue and plasma, derived WG intakes from dietary data, conducted statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript; AL: Conducted some of the biomarker measurements; AW: Designed the cohorts, provided data and samples, and supervised the data interpretation and manuscript preparation. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Nor Adila Mhd Omar.

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Mhd Omar, N.A., Wu, H., Larsson, A. et al. Long-term whole-grain rye and wheat consumption and their associations with selected biomarkers of inflammation, endothelial function, and cardiovascular disease. Eur J Clin Nutr 75, 123–132 (2021).

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