Prevent Disease with High Fiber Diet — A recent meta-analysis looks at 40 years of medical research to find out the ideal amount of dietary fiber to prevent chronic disease and premature mortality.
The study finds that whole grain cereals and fruit are superb sources which have long have long been hailed for their benefits… but exactly how much do we need to consume?
This question has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to commission a new study with the results appearing in the journal The Lancet.
As reported in Medical News Today, the new research aims to help develop guidelines for dietary fiber consumption, as well as reveal which carbs protect the most against non-communicable diseases and prevent weight gain.
Non-communicable diseases are also called “chronic” diseases; they typically last for a long time and progress slowly. According to the WHO, there are “four main types of non-communicable diseases:” cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.
Professor Jim Mann, of the University of Otago, in New Zealand, is the corresponding author of the study, and Andrew Reynolds, a postdoctoral research fellow at Otago’s Dunedin School of Medicine, is the first author of the paper.
Prof. Mann explains the motivation for the study, saying, “Previous reviews and meta-analyses have usually examined a single indicator of carbohydrate quality and a limited number of diseases, so it has not been possible to establish which foods to recommend for protecting against a range of conditions.”
To find out, the researchers performed a meta-analysis of observational studies and clinical trials. Reynolds and colleagues examined the data included in 185 observational studies — amounting to 135 million person-years — and 58 clinical trials, which recruited over 4,600 people in total. The studies that were looked at took place over almost 40 years.
The scientists investigated the incidence of certain chronic diseases, as well as the rate of premature deaths resulting from them.
These conditions were: coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and a range of obesity-related cancers, such as breast cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, and prostate cancer.
Overall, the research found that people who consume the most fiber in their diet are 15–30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause or a cardiovascular condition, compared with those who eat the least fiber.
Consuming foods rich in fiber correlated with a 16–24 percent lower incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.
Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and pulses, such as peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
The analysis also revealed that the amount of fiber that people should consume daily to gain these health benefits is 25–29 grams. By comparison, adults in the United States consume 15 grams of fiber daily while the number is interestingly higher in traditional Asian and Indonesian meals.
The authors also suggest that consuming more than 29 grams of fiber per day may yield even more health benefits.
However, they do caution that, while the study in itself did not find any adverse health effects of consuming fiber, eating too much of it may be damaging for people with insufficient iron or minerals.
Finally, the clinical trials included in the study also revealed that consuming more fiber correlates strongly with lower weight and lower cholesterol levels.