There has been little research concerning the health effects of whole grain intake in humans. We have synthesized 15 American and European case-control and prospective studies of whole grain intake. Most subjects were middle aged or older. The studies employed disparate dietary methods, and the foods referred to and quantities eaten are ill defined. Nevertheless there is a striking consistency in reduced risk for colorectal and gastric cancers associated with intake of whole grain, also found in isolated studies of endometrial cancer and coronary heart disease. Because reduced risk was not associated with refined grain intake, these findings do not appear to be confounded by participant confusion concerning refined vs. whole grains. The independence of these findings from reduced risk associated with fruit and vegetable intake is not established. There should be further research to establish whether whole grain intake is protective against chronic disease.