Foods High in Fiber May Help Prevent Diabetes

From the WebMD Archives

March 31, 2000 (New York) -- A large, new study finds that a diet high in fiber, grains, and magnesium may help protect against type 2 diabetes. In addition, the researchers found that carbohydrates don't play any apparent role in the development of the disease. Previous medical research into how diet affects the development of diabetes has been somewhat contradictory.

Fiber is found only in plants, particularly in bran of whole grains, in the stems and leaves of vegetables, and in fruits, seeds, and nuts. Certain cereals are also high in fiber. Grains are also a good source of magnesium.

Katie A. Meyer, MPH, now a doctoral student in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, led the study, which appears in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers examined the dietary habits of close to 36,000 women, following them for six years.

The researchers found that the women who ate a diet high in grains, whole grains, fiber, cereal fiber, and magnesium were less likely to get diabetes. They found neither an increased nor a decreased risk of diabetes in women who ate a high amount of carbohydrates, soluble fiber, fruits, and vegetables.

Lawrence Kushi, DCs, a co-author of the study, says that these findings lend further support to existing dietary recommendations that call for eating more plant foods than are traditionally used in the U.S. and for following more of a Mediterranean or Asian diet, both of which use more plant foods. Kushi is a professor of human nutrition at Columbia University's Teachers College in New York.

Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, who was not involved in the study, tells WebMD that "this is an extremely well-done study," but she worries about people overreacting. "I would hate to see people run out and buy magnesium supplements or sprinkle wheat bran on their food," she tells WebMD. The "data are very consistent with current dietary recommendations," says Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston.

She also stresses the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, saying there is a wealth of data demonstrating that they are important in maintaining a healthy diet.

Lichtenstein says that she hopes that the study will spur more broad-based research into what lowers diabetes risk.