By: Najja Parker, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A healthy diet and regular exercise can help you avoid heart attacks and strokes, but a good amount of fiber can be beneficial, too.
To do so, they reviewed 185 observational studies, which amounted to 135 million person-years, and 58 clinical trials, which included 4,635 adults. The analysts focused on premature deaths from coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer and other cancers associated with obesity. They also assessed the subjects’ diets. The full analysis took place over almost 40 years.
After analyzing the results, they found that people who consume the most fiber in their diet are 15–30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause or a cardiovascular condition, compared with those who eat the least fiber.
Eating foods with lots of fiber was also associated with 16–24 percent lower incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.
The authors noted the impact could translate to 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease per 1,000 participants.
“Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fiber and on replacing refined grains with whole grains. This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases,” co-author Jim Mann said in a statement.
Furthermore, the team said consuming large amounts of fiber is also correlated to lower weight and cholesterol levels.
“The health benefits of fiber are supported by over 100 years of research into its chemistry, physical properties, physiology and effects on metabolism,” Mann added. “Fiber-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favourably influence lipid and glucose levels. The breakdown of fiber in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects including protection from colorectal cancer.”
The scientists said adults should consume 25-29 grams or more of dietary fiber daily to reap the health benefits of the carbohydrate. Foods rich in fiber include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and pulses, such as peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
The analysts said it is possible to have too much fiber, particularly for those with insufficient iron or minerals, because it can further reduce the amount of iron in the body.