The public health organizations and researchers have long praised the benefits of consuming fiber, but what is the exact amount of fiber you need to eat to prevent disease?
This question has prompted the WHO (World Health Organization) to commission a new study and published the results in the journal The Lancet.
The new study aimed to help develop the right guidelines for dietary fiber consumption and to reveal the type of carbs that protect you the most against non-communicable diseases and stave off weight gain.
Non-communicable diseases are also known as chronic diseases. Typically, they last for a long time and progress slowly. WHO says, “There are 4 main types of non-communicable diseases;” cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
The corresponding author of the research is Professor Jim Mann of University of Otago, New Zealand while Andrew Reynolds, a postdoctoral research fellow at Otago’s Dunedin School of Medicine is the first author of the paper.
According to Prof. Mann when explaining the motivation of the study, “Previous reviews and meta-analyses have usually examined just one indicator of carbohydrate quality and a limited number of diseases, which is why it has not been possible to establish the right food to recommend for protecting against a range of diseases.”
The results of the study are as follow:
Daily intake of 25 to 29 grams of fiber is ideal
Reynolds and colleagues examined the data included in 185 observational studies – amounting to 135 million person-years – and 58 clinical trials which recruited over 4,600 people in total. The studies analyzed took place over 40 years.
The researchers investigated the incidence of certain chronic diseases, as well as the rate of premature deaths resulting from them.
The conditions were: stroke, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and a range of obesity-related cancers, such as prostate cancer, esophageal cancer, endometrial cancer and breast cancer.
Overall, the study found that people who eat the most fiber in their diet are 15% to 30% less likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular conditions or any cause, compared with people who consume the least fiber.
Eating foods rich in fiber correlated with a 16% to 24% lower incidence of stroke, coronary heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Fiber-rich foods are chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. The analysis also showed that the amount of fiber that people should eat daily to gain these health benefits is 25 to 29 grams.
The authors also suggest that consuming up to 29 grams of fiber per day may yield more health benefits. But they do caution that the research itself didn’t find any adverse health effects of eating fiber, consuming too much of it may be damaging for people with insufficient minerals or iron.
Consuming large amounts of whole grains can deplete the body of iron the more. The study also showed that eating more fiber correlates strongly with lower cholesterol levels and lower weight.
Why is fiber good for you?
Prof. Mann says, “The health benefits of fiber are supported by more than 100 years research into its physiology, physical properties, chemistry and effects on metabolism.”
He adds, “Fiber-rich whole foods requiring chewing and retaining much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help control weight and can favorably influence glucose and lipid levels.”
He also says, “The breakdown of fiber in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects which include protection from colorectal cancer.”
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