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Fiber Good, and Not Just for Your Gut

Studies Show Fiber Fights Heart Disease, Diabetes
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Medical News

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 Clinical Nutrition.

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