Fiber has often been touted as beneficial for digestion, but new research suggests its benefits extend far beyond that.
A recent comprehensive study finds that eating a high-fiber diet is associated with a lower risk of early death and a variety of chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.
What Did The Study Explore?
The team performed systematic reviews and meta-analyses of numerous studies that reported on carbohydrate quality in relation to indicators of health.
They analyzed just under 135 million person-years of data from 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials, involving 4635 adult participants.
The research showed that higher intakes of dietary fiber could lead to significant health benefits.
Comparing the highest dietary fiber consumers with the lowest consumers, they found a 15-30% decrease in all-cause and heart-related mortality, and a reduced incidence of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.
Clinical trials within the study also showed significantly lower body weight, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol among individuals with higher fiber intakes.
The sweet spot for daily fiber intake appeared to be between 25 g and 29 g, though the study suggests that higher intakes could confer even greater benefits.
Not All Carbs Are Created Equal
The study emphasized the importance of the type of carbohydrate consumed over the amount.
While carbohydrates can be found in both healthy and unhealthy foods, fiber and whole grains proved to be the types linked to better health outcomes.
The evidence for diets with a low glycemic index was less compelling, suggesting that not all carbs should be avoided when looking to improve health.
Implications for Dietary Recommendations
According to the study, there is a strong case for people to increase their dietary fiber intake and to replace refined grains with whole grains.
The researchers believe these findings provide a robust evidence base for setting quantitative dietary guidelines regarding fiber and carbohydrate quality.
Strength of the Study
One of the major strengths of the study is its broad scope, looking at key indicators of carbohydrate quality in relation to a wide range of non-communicable diseases.
This makes the findings especially pertinent for public health initiatives aimed at reducing the burden of chronic disease.
In a world increasingly confused by fad diets and mixed dietary advice, this study offers clear evidence that a simple change—increasing fiber intake—could have profound health benefits.
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