Digestive Health

15 February 2011

High fibre diet lengthens your life

Study found that eating lots of whole grains reduced the risk of dying from any cause.


Eating lots of whole grains reduced one's risk of dying from any cause, a study found.

Eating a diet rich in fibre may reduce your risk of dying from heart disease, respiratory disease or any other cause by 22%, researchers from the US National Cancer Institute report.

Fibre has also been tied to a reduced risk of developing heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and obesity, the researchers added. In addition, fibre helps bowel movements and lowers cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure. It also promotes weight loss and reduces inflammation, they noted.

"The 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages consuming fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains," said lead researcher Yikyung Park, a staff scientist at the institute.


"The guidelines recommend 14g per 4000kJ of dietary fibre per day; that's 25g (of fibre) a day. Our study is in line with these recommendations and suggests dietary fibre intake is associated with lower mortality," she said.

The report is published in an edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

For the study, Park's team collected data on 388,122 men and women who took part in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. As part of the study, participants filled out a questionnaire that asked about their diet.

The amount of fibre people in the study ate ranged from 13g to 29g per day in men, and from 11g to 26g per day in women.

The follow-up

Over nine years of follow-up, 20,126 men and 11,330 women died.

The researchers found that men and women who ate the most fibre were 22% less likely to die over the nine years than people who ate the least fibre.

Moreover, the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease was cut 24% to 56% among men who ate the most fibre and reduced by 34% to 59% among women, Park's group found.

Fibre from grains, but not from fruits, was associated with reduced risks of dying, the researchers noted.

"Prior studies have focused on the relationship between fibre intake and cardiovascular disease, but few have examined the link between dietary fibre and risk of death from any cause," Park said. "Our analysis adds to the literature, and suggests dietary fibre intake is associated with decreased likelihood of death."

Supported evidence

Dr Frank B. Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said, "This study provides further evidence to support current dietary guidelines that recommend high intake of fibre."

Commenting on the study, Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator at the Centre for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., said that "whole grains rule."

It may be that people whose diets are high in fibre, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts, lead healthier lifestyles that include exercise and not smoking than people who eat primarily processed foods and few fruits and vegetables, she said.

"That said, wouldn't it be great if people took the simple step of adding healthy, high-fibre foods to their diets and dodged very scary and serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes," Heller said.

(HealthDay News, February 2011)

Too little fibre hurts 


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Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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