Whole Grain Consumption and Inflammatory Markers: A Systematic Literature Review of Randomized Control Trials

Whole grain foods are rich in nutrients, dietary fibre, a range of antioxidants, and phytochemicals, and may have potential to act in an anti-inflammatory manner, which could help impact chronic disease risk. This systematic literature review aimed to examine the specific effects of whole grains on selected inflammatory markers from human clinical trials in adults. As per the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews (PRISMA) protocol, the online databases MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane, CINAHL, and Scopus were searched from inception through to 31 August 2021. Randomized control trials (RCTs) ≥ 4 weeks in duration, reporting ≥1 of the following: C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), were included. A total of 31 RCTs were included, of which 16 studies recruited overweight/obese individuals, 12 had pre-existing conditions, two were in a healthy population, and one study included participants with prostate cancer. Of these 31 RCTs, three included studies with two intervention arms. A total of 32 individual studies measured CRP (10/32 were significant), 18 individual studies measured IL-6 (2/18 were significant), and 13 individual studies measured TNF (5/13 were significant). Most often, the overweight/obese population and those with pre-existing conditions showed significant reductions in inflammatory markers, mainly CRP (34% of studies). Overall, consumption of whole grain foods had a significant effect in reducing at least one inflammatory marker as demonstrated in 12/31 RCTs.

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