5 Key Takeaways from Study of Fiber’s Role in Health



If you’re aiming to eat better to optimize your health, new research suggests an easy motto: Fiber first.   

A review of nearly 40 years of nutritional studies found that the risks of developing at least four potentially deadly health conditions – including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer – markedly dropped among those who ate more fiber, according to a study published in The Lancet.

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Researchers from New Zealand analyzed nearly 250 studies in which people tracked what they ate and reported health outcomes in measures such as blood pressure, weight, blood sugar, cholesterol and inflammation levels. The scientists wanted to determine specific health effects linked to eating various types of carbohydrates, pinpointing differences among those eating sugars and fibers from vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

What were the key takeaways?

  • People who ate the most fiber faced up to 30% lower odds of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and colon cancer.

  • Deaths from all causes and cardiovascular disease were 15% to 30% lower in people who ate the highest amount of fiber compared to those who ate the least.

  • Health risks continued dropping with the addition of more fiber to the diet. For every additional 8 grams of fiber eaten, the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer decreased between 5% and 27%.

  • For every 1,000 study participants, the impact of eating fiber-rich foods translated into 13 fewer deaths and 6 fewer cases of heart disease.

  • Higher fiber intake was also linked to lower body weight and cholesterol levels compared to participants who ate less fiber.

The World Health Organization commissioned the research to help develop new recommendations for optimal daily fiber consumption. Currently, American adults are advised by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily.

“Currently, most people consume less than 20 grams of fiber per day, so being more conscious about choosing high-fiber food options will help reach that target,” study author Andrew Reynolds of the University of Otago in New Zealand told Time magazine.