Revealed: Experts suggest this could be the secret to a longer life
A large bowl of porridge every day could protect against death from cancer, the biggest analysis of the benefits of whole grains has shown.
Oats have long been considered a superfood, staving off illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
But now a review by Harvard University has found that whole grains also appear to prevent early death and lower the chance of dying from cancer.
A meta-analysis of 12 studies involving nearly 800,000 people found that eating 70 grams of whole grains a day - the equivalent of a large bowl of porridge - lowers the risk of all-cause death by 22pc and death from cancer by 20pc. It also reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 20pc.
Scientists believe that whole grains help lower cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar, as well as making people feel full for longer, preventing them from snacking on unhealthy foods. The same effect could be gained from eating bran, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, or a mix of grains.
Whole grains, where the bran and germ remain, contain 25pc more protein than refined grains, such as those used to make white flour, pasta and white rice.
Previous studies have shown that whole grains can boost bone mineral density, lower blood pressure, promote healthy gut bacteria and reduce the risk of diabetes.
One particular fibre found only in oats - called beta-glucan - has been found to lower cholesterol which can help to protect against heart disease.
Whole grains are recommended in many dietary guidelines because they contain high levels of nutrients such as zinc, copper, manganese, iron and thiamine. They are also believed to boost levels of antioxidants, which combat free-radicals linked to cancer.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Eating more whole grains is a simple change we can make to improve our diet and help lower our risk of heart and circulatory disease. Choosing brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, wholemeal or granary bread instead of white and swapping to whole-grain breakfast cereals such as porridge are all simple ways to help us up our fibre and whole-grain intake."
The researchers said a 16-gram serving of whole grains lowered the risk of total death by 7pc, and cancer by 5pc.