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Eat Fiber for Better Health

Affirming existing evidence that eating foods rich in fiber contributes to better health, including heart health, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that eating an abundance of dietary fiber may lower the risk of an early death by as much as 22%.

High fiber, high health gains

In this study, researchers looked at the role of dietary fiber and risk of early death among 219,123 men and 168,999 women enrolled in the National Institutes of Health AARP Diet and Health Study. Researchers reviewed food questionnaires that participants had filled out assessing the amount of fiber they ate and followed them for nine years.

Results showed:

  • Men and women who ate the most fiber (26 to 29 grams per day) had a 22% lower risk of death from any cause compared with men and women who ate the least.
  • Specifically, eating an abundance of fiber also decreased the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases by 24% to 56% in men and by 34% to 59% in women.

The study authors conclude, “The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains frequently and consuming 14 grams/1,000 calories of dietary fiber. A diet rich in dietary fiber from whole plant foods may provide significant health benefits.”

Add fiber to your diet

  • Eating fiber improves health. Dietary fiber has known health benefits, and the study authors point out that including plenty of fiber in your diet may help improve digestion and bowel function, improve cholesterol levels, improve insulin function, and lower blood pressure. These benefits may then translate into disease prevention and better management of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Sources of fiber. Fruit, veggies, whole grains such as oatmeal, legumes such as lentils, and nuts are all important sources of fiber in a balanced diet. Foods that are particularly high in fiber include lentils, beans, peas, artichokes, and raspberries.
  • Talk to a professional. Talk with a doctor or nutritionist and learn more about the role of dietary fiber in helping you stay healthy and live a long life!

(Arch Intern Med. 2011;171:1061–8)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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