Feb. 20, 2008 (New Orleans) -- Researchers have found that how much fiber you eat can affect stroke severity -- and the chances of recovery.
The researchers studied 50 stroke victims. They found that the more fiber they ate, the less severe their stroke and the greater the chance they could resume everyday activities like feeding themselves.
Editor's Note: Food Pyramid Replaced
In June 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a new plate icon.
"Many studies have looked at fiber and its relation to the risk of having a stroke," says researcher Angela Besanger, RD, a nutritionist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
"What's new here is that we looked at people who have had a stroke, asking whether fiber can decrease its severity and improve function," Besanger tells WebMD.
She presented the results at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference.
Fiber and Stroke Severity
For the study, participants were asked to recall how much fiber they consumed in a 24-hour period. Then, their consumption of total fiber, soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber was correlated with stroke severity and recovery.
Results showed that total fiber intake and insoluble fiber intake were linked to less severe strokes and better recovery. No such association was observed for soluble fiber.
Soluble fibers, which dissolve in water, include oats and oat bran, peas, beans, barley, and fruits and vegetables.
Insoluble fibers, which promote the movement of material through your digestive system and increase stool bulk, include whole wheat, whole grain, vegetable and fruit skins, and wheat bran.
Besanger says studies have shown that people who eat a lot of insoluble fiber have lower blood pressure and lower body weight. High blood pressure and obesity can predispose people to having a stroke.
But don't worry about measuring how much of each type of fiber you're getting in your diet, she says.
The best -- and easiest -- way to ensure you are getting the right amount of fiber in your diet is to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) food pyramid, Besanger says.
If you insist on an exact target, follow USDA recommendations to get at least 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories daily, Besanger adds. That's about twice the amount consumed by the average American, she says.
Philip Gorelick, MD, head of the committee that chose the studies to highlight at the meeting and head of neurology at the University of Illinois in Chicago, says the findings reinforce American Heart Association recommendations to eat at least seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
The next step, Gorelick tells WebMD, is to figure out how fiber might protect against disabling stroke.