Dietary Fiber Beneficial in Treating Disease

Dietary fiber has been linked with reduced risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes and different cancers. In this study, diet was assessed and the reported deaths were analyzed over a span of nine years. It was revealed that dietary fiber intake was associated with a lower risk of death from respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and infections. Most of this was attributed to dietary fiber, specifically from whole grains. Thus, a choice of food rich in dietary fiber is beneficial.

Dietary fiber consists of plant fibers, which are consumed, yet not digested, and these sometimes also ferment in the intestine. Fiber has been known to decrease the risk of cardiac disease, diabetes, some cancers, obesity and premature death. This fiber acts by lowering cholesterol levels, slowing the absorption of glucose, lowering blood pressure and promoting weight loss. Previous studies associated with dietary fiber had used small sample sizes. Therefore, in this study, intake of dietary fiber was investigated in relation to the total deaths as well as deaths due to specific causes in a large group of people over a span of nine years.

* This study comprised 168,999 women and 219,123 men in the age group 50 to 71 years. They were questioned initially during the years 1995 -1996.
* Dietary intake was assessed with a “124-item food-frequency questionnaire.” The deaths were documented by assessing the Social Security Administration Death Master File.
* Statistical measures were used to analyze the association between dietary fiber intake and the associated deaths.

* In the nine years researched, there were 20,126 deaths in men and 11,330 deaths in women.
* The average dietary fiber intakes ranged between 13 to 29 grams/day in men and 11 to 26 grams/day in women.
* Dietary fiber intake was less in the people who had died. The dietary fibers from grains specifically played a vital role.

Next steps/Shortcomings
This study did not account for the other foods ingested. There is no evidence to show that those who had consumed fiber had also consumed other beneficial foods. Since the data was self-reported, errors were highly likely. A few findings may have been affected by the varied lifestyles of the participants. These were not accounted for in the study.

Dietary fiber could help prevent premature deaths from various diseases like heart diseases, diabetes and obesity. Fiber has different sources, i.e. fruit, vegetables and grains. This study shows that fibers from grains were highly beneficial. Also, the daily-required allowance of fiber intake was quantified. The study also controlled for smoking and many other risk factors for early mortality, and left out persons with heart disease, diabetes and renal disease. Th authors conclude, “The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains frequently and consuming 14 grams per 1,000 calories of dietary fiber. A diet rich in dietary fiber from whole plant foods may provide significant health benefits.”

For More Information:
Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study
Publication Journal: The Archives of Internal Medicine, February 2011
By Yikyung Park; Amy F. Subar, PhD; Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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