The more fiber you get through your diet, the lower your risk of death from heart, lung or infectious diseases. That comes from a new study over a nine-year period that also found dietary fiber lowers your risk of death from any cause as well. Protecting your life: just another day’s work for one of the most important considerations in food choices.
The study will appear in June in the prestigious “Archives of Internal Medicine.”
Fiber is the edible part of plants that resists digestion, meaning you have a healthier gastrointestinal system able to absorb food slowly and more effectively. In the past, theories had it that fiber could lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. It is known to assist with bowel movements, reduce blood cholesterol levels, improve blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and bind to potential cancer-causing agents to increase the likelihood they will be excreted by the body.
In the new study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 220,000 men and 170,000 women in a national diet and health study. Participants completed a food frequency questionnaire at the beginning of the study in 1995 and 1996. Their average fiber intake ranged from 13 to 29 grams per day in men and from 11 to 26 grams per day in women.
Over about nine years of follow-up, 20,126 men and 11,330 women died. Fiber intake was associated with a significantly decreased risk of total death in both men and women. The one-fifth of men and women with the most fiber (29.4 grams per day for men, 25.8 grams for women) were 22% less likely to die than those consuming the least (12.6 grams for men, 10.8 grams for women).
The risk of heart, infectious and respiratory diseases dropped anywhere from 24% to 56% in men and 34% to 59% in women with high fiber intakes. Dietary fiber from grains — but not from other sources such as fruits — was linked with reduced risks of total, cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory disease deaths in all participants.
This is pretty big news on the fiber front and helps solidify the incredible importance of getting enough in your daily diet. The current national guidelines recommend choosing fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains frequently, and consuming 14 grams per 1,000 calories of dietary fiber. There are few friends as healthy for humans as fiber.