High-fibre diet helps the heart

The study found a diet rich in fibre can cut the risk of major diseases
John Taylor

The study found a diet rich in fibre can cut the risk of major diseases Credit John Taylor

The findings appear in the journal The Lancet.

Researchers also found people who increased the amount of fibre in their diet had lower body weight, and total cholesterol.

The study, which will make for hard reading for food manufacturers making low-carb products, said that fibre in "good" carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, cereal, pasta and oats has a protective effect.

The team was commissioned by the World Health Organization to inform future fibre intake recommendations.

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Professor Jim Mann of the University of Otago in New Zealand told The Guardian that research from the latest study "does contribute to the debate considerably".

High fibre diets are better at protecting against most diseases compared to low-fibre diets.

Specifically, the study showed that such a high-fiber diet reduces coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer by 16-to-24 percent.

The study shows that most people worldwide eat less than 20 grams of fibre each day, while guidelines set in 2015 in the United Kingdom recommend that we should eat at least 30 grams per day. Consuming 25-29 grams each day was adequate but the data suggest that higher intakes of dietary fibre could provide even greater protection.

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Protection against stroke and breast cancer also increased.

The study notes that the relationships between high fiber/whole grain consumption and reduced noncommunicable diseases could be causal. "However sugars, starches and fibers are all carbohydrates that perform different roles in the body", Reynolds wrote. This alignment is seen beautifully for dietary fibre intake, in which observational studies reveal a reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, which is associated with a reduction in bodyweight, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure reported in randomised controlled trials.

This can be achieved by changing from white bread to wholegrain or multi-grain bread, substituting white rice with brown and choosing whole-wheat pasta and breakfast cereals, along with five servings of vegetables and two of fruit, daily. "While we all knew that dietary fiber was good for us we didn't know the extent to which the old mantra was true". However, links for low glycaemic load and low glycaemic index diets are less clear.

Speaking to The Guardian, Mann said that the findings considerably challenge many popular diets that reject carbohydrates due to their correlation with sugar.

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One limitation of the analysis is that the studies involved only healthy individuals, so the findings do not apply to people with pre-existing chronic conditions.

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