Fiber Good, and Not Just for Your Gut
Studies Show Fiber Fights Heart Disease, Diabetes
April 13, 2006 -- Fiber isn't just for good for your gut. It fights heart
disease and diabetes, new studies suggest.
There's more good news. You don't have to force yourself to eat massive
quantities of unpleasant foods. The full-body benefit comes from eating the
20-35 grams of fiber per day recommended by dietary guidelines.
Now nutritionists have even more reason to stress the importance of fiber,
says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of
Pittsburgh Medical Center. She was not involved in the study.
"When people think fiber, they think gut -- it is just having an effect
on the lower part of my body," Bonci tells WebMD. "But now it is very
exciting to realize that fiber is having an effect in the upper body, too.
Fiber is a head-to-toe body benefit. People need it."
Fiber for Heart Health
Yunsheng Ma, MD, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in
Worcester, followed 524 healthy adults for one year. At the beginning of the
study -- and every three months -- the researchers drew blood for lab tests and
collected details about what the volunteers were eating.
Most of the study participants were getting far less fiber than they should.
They averaged only 16 grams of fiber a day. The 20% of study subjects who ate
the least fiber got a little more than 10 grams a day. The 20% who ate the most
got more than 22 grams a day -- within recommended levels.
Compared with those who ate the least fiber, those who ate the most were 63%
less likely to have high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Although this
relationship was stronger than other studies, consistently high CRP levels have
been shown to predict an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. High CRP
levels are also a sign that a person is at risk of diabetes.
"This study shows that dietary fiber prevents heart disease and
diabetes," Ma tells WebMD. "The fiber offers protection. So people need
to get their fruit and vegetables."
Ma's study appears in the April issue of the American Journal of
Fiber Fights Diabetes in Overweight/Obese People
People who are overweight are at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, the
most common kind. Fiber might help, suggests Martin O. Weickert, MD, of the
German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, Germany. Weickert noted that
people who eat a lot of cereal fibers, such as bran, are less likely to get
His research team studied 17 overweight or obese women. For three days,
three times a day, the women ate some white bread. Half the women got plain
white bread. The other half got bread spiked with 10.4 grams of oat fiber.
Over time, the bodies of overweight people become less and less sensitive to
insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. This lack of sensitivity
results in diabetes in some people. Weickert and colleagues found that the
women who ate the oat fiber over the short three-day time period became
significantly more sensitive to insulin.