Dietary fiber may be associated with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases, as well as a reduced risk of death from any cause over a nine-year period, according to a report posted online February 14 that will be published in the June 14 print issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Fiber, the edible part of plants that resist digestion, has been hypothesized to lower risks of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and obesity, according to background information in the article. It is known to assist with bowel movements, reduce blood cholesterol levels, improve blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, promote weight loss and reduce inflammation and bind to potential cancer-causing agents to increase the likelihood they will be excreted by the body.
Yikyung Park, Sc.D., of the National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from 219,123 men and 168,999 women in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Participants completed a food frequency questionnaire at the beginning of the study in 1995 and 1996. Causes of death were determined by linking study records to national registries.
Participants’ fiber intake ranged from 13 to 29 grams per day in men and from 11 to 26 grams per day in women. Over an average of nine years of follow-up, 20,126 men and 11,330 women died. Fiber intake was associated with a significantly decreased risk of total death in both men and women — the one-fifth of men and women consuming the most fiber (29.4 grams per day for men and 25.8 grams for women) were 22 percent less likely to die than those consuming the least (12.6 grams per day for men and 10.8 grams for women).
The risk of cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases was reduced by 24 percent to 56 percent in men and 34 percent to 59 percent in women with high fiber intakes. Dietary fiber from grains, but not from other sources such as fruits, was associated with reduced risks of total, cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory disease deaths in men and women.
“A diet rich in dietary fiber from whole plant foods may provide significant health benefits,” the authors conclude.
Dr. Jonny comments: In my book, “Living Low Carb: Controlled Carbohydrate Eating for Long Term Weight Loss” I have a section on the best supplements for weight loss. Here’s what I said then about fiber: “It’s not expensive, it’s not exotic, and it’s not sexy, but it works like a charm. It’s plain, old-fashioned fiber. More than a dozen clinical studies have used dietary fiber supplements for weight loss, most with positive outcomes”.
So fiber for weight loss? Absolutely. But as this new research points out, fiber does a lot more than that, protecting against a host of diseases and even lowering the risk of overall mortality. Most health organizations recommend you get between 25-38 grams of fiber daily (more is better!) Our Paleo ancestors probably got more than 50 grams daily. The average American gets between 4-11.
Fiber supplements can help, and are easy to add to shakes. It’s a great way to get additional fiber in your diet, something just about everyone can benefit from. An alternative to powdered fiber is the pretty tasty chewables known as Fiber Delights, which you can pop like candy. Each chewable contains 4 grams of fiber, about 1/3 to 1/4 the amount in a cup of beans! Not bad!