Part 2: Other Health Benefits of Fiber

Mar 25, 2011
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Did you know that fiber, besides helping to regulate our digestive system, also has other health benefits such as decreasing risk of certain diseases and weight management. The old adage, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, may have science to help back it up. An increase in research is showing that fiber may stave off heart disease, diabetes, cancer and weight gain.

Heart Disease
There have been several researches indicating the greater an individual’s fiber consumption, the lower their risk of heart disease and chance of heart-related death. Fiber may prevent heart disease for several reasons. It lowers LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance (the body’s ability to regulate sugar), all of which are risk factors for heart disease, according to a 2004 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

High fiber intake also is linked to lower levels of C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation that predicts recurrent strokes and possibly heart attacks in people who haven’t had one before, according to the American Heart Association.

Cancer
Regarding cancer and fiber, further research needs to be done in this area. Studies published in 2005, from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that it made no difference in the development of colorectal cancer. However, other research has  suggested that fiber-rich diets reduce the risk of tumors. Any beneficial effects may come not from the fiber, but from vitamins and minerals in high-fiber foods, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Fiber may have an indirect effect on cancer by speeding the passage of food through the digestive tract and minimizing the amount of time the body is exposed to potentially harmful molecules.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Though it may seem counterintuitive, fiber can help manage IBS.  A study published in the British Medical Journal that compared the fiber supplement psyllium with bran and a placebo found that IBS symptoms decreased most among patients taking psyllium. While they improved somewhat in those eating bran, many people in that arm of the trial dropped out because their symptoms got worse. For that reason, the Mayo Clinic recommends experimenting with types of fiber and increasing your consumption gradually.

Diabetes
Fiber is a boon to people looking to prevent diabetes and who already have the disease. Research has consistently shown that a diet that includes high-fiber cereals (those that contain whole grains) is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, according to a 2008 review in the Journal of Nutrition.

Fiber is good for people with diabetes because it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center. And patients who eat high-fiber diets have lower fasting insulin levels, a marker of overall blood sugar. Aim for 25 to 50 grams a day if you have the disease, doctors recommended in a 2004 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Weight Management
Fiber is a tool to maintain and lose weight. Fiber makes you feel full, so you eat less. And the highest-fiber foods also tend to be the lowest in calories – as long as the fiber occurs naturally. Manufactured products with fiber added to them tend to be higher in calories and less healthy.

Resources:

http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/09/14/fiber-helps-keep-the-doctor-away/

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber/NU00033

http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4494

http://ehealthmd.com/library/fiber/fib_benefits.html

Author: Jenny Carlton



  • http://www.theirritablebowelsyndrome.org/ irritable bowel syndrome

    Hi, 

    Thanks guys for sharing other health benefits of fiber.