Protect your liver with whole grains: Study finds they reduce the risk of liver cancer
07/17/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

Eating whole grains offers a wide range of health benefits, which include protection against liver cancer. A study published in the journal JAMA Oncology revealed that adhering to a diet rich in whole grains can lower your risk of liver cancer by 40 percent.

Whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber. A diet rich in whole grains and dietary fiber has been associated with a lower risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – all of which are risk factors for primary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In addition to reducing insulin resistance, regulating metabolism, and reducing inflammation, regularly consuming whole grains and dietary fiber may also improve gut health and change gut microbiota composition, which increases the production of metabolites. (Related: Whole grains offer an easy way to prevent Type 2 diabetes.)

For the study, researchers from China and the U.S. investigated whether eating more whole grains and fiber would reduce the risk of liver cancer. To do so, they monitored 125,455 men and women aged 63, on average. The participants were initially enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, an all-women study that began in 1976, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which began in 1986 and was comprised of male participants. Every four years, the participants reported their consumption of whole grains, as well as their components: bran and germ. They also reported their total dietary fiber intake from cereal, fruits, and vegetables. After a follow-up period of about 24 years, 141 participants developed liver cancer.


After considering other risk factors for liver cancer, the researchers found that those who consumed the most whole grains had as much as 37 percent lower risk of liver cancer than those who consumed the least. Liver cancer risk was also reduced among those who ate the most bran, but not those who consumed the most germ. Those who consumed the most cereal grain also had lower liver cancer risk, but not those who had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption.

"Interestingly, compared with fruit or vegetable fiber, cereal fiber has been shown in our study and other cohort studies to be more consistently associated with lower risk of total mortality, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer," said senior study author Dr. Xuehong Zhang of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Zhang explained that this may be due to fruits and vegetables, particularly fruit juice containing sugar or added sugar, which may lead to liver damage and NAFLD. As a result, it cancels out the potential benefit of fruit- or vegetable-fiber intake.

5 Whole grain foods you should eat

Protect your liver from cancer and more with these whole grain varieties:

  1. Brown rice – Brown rice is a healthier alternative to white rice. It contains antioxidants, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. Brown rice may also help lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  2. Whole oatsOats are particularly rich in an antioxidant called avenanthramide, which protects the heart. Oats can also help you lose weight because they are rich in soluble fiber, which helps you feel full for long periods. Fiber also aids in digestion and prevents constipation. Eat oats with as little sugar as possible, mixing in just some fresh or dried fruit, or organic honey.
  3. Whole ryeRye contains more nutrients per 100-calorie serving than any other whole grain variety. It offers four times more fiber than whole wheat and provides almost 50 percent of your daily recommended intake of iron.
  4. Buckwheat – Buckwheat is gluten-free and is one of the best grain-based sources of magnesium and manganese. You can use buckwheat flour to make pancake and waffles or whole buckwheat for soups and salads.
  5. Bulgur – Bulgur is the key ingredient in tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern staple. This whole grain contains the most fiber out of any grain. It is also a great source of iron, magnesium, and protein.

Read up on other ways to protect your liver from cancer at

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