With our nation faced with a growing epidemic of diabetes, Harvard researchers have found that eating a bowl (one serving) of whole-grain cereal a day--cereals such as Cheerios, Wheaties, Total and Wheat Chex--may reduce the risk of diabetes by as much as 34 percent.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 16 million Americans have type 2 (Adult Onset) diabetes and 625,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The Harvard study, just published in the American Journal of Public Health, examined the diets of 75,000 women for more than 10 years and discovered that women who consumed higher levels of whole-grain foods had lower rates of type 2 diabetes.

Table Three of the study shows that one serving of whole-grain cereal a day had a statistically significant impact, measuring a 34 percent decrease in incidences of type 2 diabetes. Other whole-grain foods effective in lowering risk include brown rice, cooked oatmeal, and dark bread.

"Results from this large prospective study of adult U.S. women provide support for the hypothesis that whole-grain intake is inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes," according to the study's conclusions.

Theoretically, if everybody ate a bowl of whole-grain breakfast cereal each day, then 5.4 million fewer people would have type 2 diabetes.

"People are not eating enough whole-grain foods," said Nutritionist Kathy Wiemer, M.S., R. D., of the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, a research arm of General Mills. "On average, Americans fall far short of the recommended three servings of whole grains per day. In fact, whole-grain foods constitute only about one percent of the total calories Americans consume."

Although more and more research points to the health benefits of eating more whole grains, scientists haven't determined the exact mechanisms of whole grain foods in the reduction of heart disease, some cancers and now diabetes. Whatever the case, scientists agree that whole grains offer a powerful nutritional package effective in reducing the risk for developing diseases that are the leading killers in this country.

The Harvard study lists several positive components of whole grains that research suggests could explain their effectiveness. "Whole-grain products are generally digested and absorbed slowly...exerting less insulin demand. In addition, various individual antioxidants, nutrients, and phytochemicals in whole grains, as well as interaction among them, are potentially important," according to the study.

General Mills makes the largest volume of whole-grain cereals in the nation. Whole-grain oat Cheerios is the top-selling breakfast cereal in the country, and Wheaties and Total are the most popular whole grain cereals in their respective categories. General Mills successfully petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow a new health claim on packaging to promote the heart disease and cancer-fighting health benefits of whole-grain foods.

Only seven percent of the population eats the recommended three servings of whole grains a day. In addition to protecting against cardiovascular disease, research has shown that eating whole grain foods is associated with a reduced risk for the following cancers: colon, rectum, gastric, endometrial, oral, pharyngeal, tongue and esophageal.

General Mills is one of the nation's leading cereal manufacturers. Cheerios®, Wheaties® and Total® are registered trademarks of General Mills.

For more information, visit the General Mills whole grain web site at: www.generalmills.com/wholegrain.