Results of the study suggest that there is a 15 to 30 percent decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular-related mortality among people who ate the most amount of fiber, compared to those who did not consume fiber each day. Eating fiber-rich foods was likewise linked to a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer by as much as 24 percent. Taken into context, this translates to 13 fewer deaths per 1,000 participants and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease.
The research, which spanned almost four decades’ worth of observational studies and clinical trials, supports the general call of the health industry to increase one’s dietary fiber intake.
About the study, corresponding author Professor Jim Mann from the University of Otago, New Zealand said, “Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fiber and on replacing refined grains with whole grains. This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases.”
Authors of the study consolidated data from 185 observational studies that related to 135 million person years and 58 clinical trials involving 4,635 adult participants. Researchers primarily focused on premature deaths associated with coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, as well as those that were linked with Type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and cancers related with obesity (breast, endometrial, esophageal, and prostate).
A few other notable findings include:
The study also found that diets that had a low glycemic index and load provided limited (yet still adequate) support for protection against Type 2 diabetes and stroke only. Foods with a low glycemic index may contain various added sugars and saturated fats, which may explain why their link to overall better health is less clear.
It is believed that the benefits obtained from the intake of dietary fiber is due to its link with probable weight loss. People who consume more dietary fiber are more likely to feel full throughout the day, resulting in less snacking, which may lead to weight loss. There is also evidence to suggest that people who eat more dietary fiber are also more likely to practice better lifestyle habits, such as exercising more, sleeping regularly, and not smoking.
Professor Gary Frost from the Imperial College London, U.K., observed that the study “enables [experts in the health industry] to understand how altering the quality of carbohydrate intake in randomized controlled trials affects non-communicable disease risk factors and how these changes in diet quality align with disease incidence in prospective cohort studies.”