Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A new research review in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has linked eating more fiber to a lower risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD).
In the study, researchers at the University of Leeds combed through studies on dietary fiber published since 1990. Study data was culled from six electronic sources based in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia.
The UK researchers looked at several different types of fiber: total, insoluble, soluble, cereal, fruit, vegetable and other sources. The review found that the risk of a CVD or CHD event gradually lowers with increasing intake of total, insoluble, fruit and vegetable fiber.
For soluble fiber – found in nuts, oats, and barley – a greater reduction was seen in the threat of a CVD event than for a CHD event. For cereal fiber, the lower risk of a CHD event was stronger than the connection with CVD. A higher intake from fruit fiber was associated with lower CVD risk.
The research team found a considerably lower risk for both CVD and CHD events with every additional 7 grams of daily fiber consumed. The scientists said these results are consistent with current guidelines to raise fiber intake and show a large risk reduction with a reasonable increase in daily fiber. They noted that following these guidelines could “potentially impact on many thousands of individuals.”
The researchers also said that individuals can get an additional 7 grams of fiber via one portion of whole grains, which are found in bread, rice and pasta – plus a serving of beans or two to four portions of fruit and vegetables.
The UK team concluded “diets high in fiber, specifically from cereal or vegetable sources … are significantly associated with lower risk of CHD and CVD and reflect recommendations to increase intake.”
In an accompanying editorial published alongside the review, Dr. Robert Baron, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said the study “increases our confidence that benefit, as reflected by reduced cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease events, will in fact accrue with higher dietary fiber intakes.”
“Recommendations to eat more fiber and more high fiber foods are consistent with other nutritional recommendations, including advice to eat less sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, fewer refined carbohydrates, less trans-fat and saturated fat, and less meat,” he said
Baron admitted that getting patients to change their eating habits is difficult, but advocating the increase of dietary fiber slowly, as well as drinking enough water are other practical suggestions.
“Current food labelling does not make it easy for consumers to identify which foods are whole grains, especially when consuming baked goods and cereals,” he noted. “One strategy is to identify food products with whole grain listed as the first ingredient. Another strategy is to teach patients to look for the ratio of grams of carbohydrates to grams of dietary fiber,” such as “breads with ratios of less than 10:1 and cereals with ratios of 5:1”
The directive to include adequate amounts of dietary fiber “may turn out to be the most important nutrition recommendation of them all,” he concluded.