High fibre diet linked to longer life

February 16, 2011 in Nutrition Topics in the News

High fibre diet linked to longer life

New study findings from Harvard researchers suggest fibre may have even broader health benefits than previously thought.

The benefits of fibre in weight loss, lowering cholesterol and protecting against heart disease have been well established by previous studies.  But the new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that people who eat a lot of fibre every day may be less likely to die prematurely from a range of illnesses, including heart disease, cancer and infection.

To investigate, researchers tracked 400,000 members of the American Association of Retired People (AARP).

In 1995 and 1996, when they were between 51 and 71 years old, the participants filled out a survey about eating habits, with additional information gathered about their physical activity levels, weight and smoking status.

Using national databases of death and causes of death, the team was able to determine which of the original study participants died, and from what causes, over an average follow-up period of nine years.

Comparing people in the lowest quartile, men who ate 13 grams and women who ate 11 grams a day, with those in the highest, where men consumed an average of 29 grams and women 26 grams, the researchers found that people who ate the most fibre were 22 percent less likely to have died of any cause during the study than people who ate the least.

That pattern remained when the results were broken down by cause of death.

Researchers found that fibre intake also lowered the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases by 24 to 56 percent in men and by 34 to 59 percent in women.  For men, eating more fibre was also linked to a lower risk of cancer mortality.

Overall, fibre had a greater protective effect when it came from grains rather than fruits, vegetables or beans, perhaps because whole grains contain vitamins and minerals that have been shown to prevent disease.

Women aged 19 to 50 are advised to get 25 g of fibre each day; while men need 38 g.  Despite the known health benefits of fibre, most Canadians continue to fall short, with average Canadians intake between 11 and 17 g per day.

Some of the best dietary sources of fibre include cooked lentils (8 grams of fibre per ½ cup serving), black beans (8 grams of fibre per ½ cup serving), ground flaxseed (8 grams of fibre per ¼ cup), and barley (6 grams of fibre per ¾ cup serving).

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.