According to a recent study of nearly one million adults, people who ate the most fibre were less likely to die of any cause.
Previous studies have found a link between high fibre diets and a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and several types of cancer.
Individuals should be encouraged to increase their dietary fibre intake "to potentially decrease the risk of premature death,” said the researchers.
They pooled data from 17 previous studies that tracked 982,411 men and women, mostly in Europe and the U.S.
The research team divided participants into five groups based on their daily fibre intake. Those in the top fifth, who ate the greatest amount of fibre daily, were 16 percent less likely to die than those in the bottom fifth, who consumed the least amount of fibre.
In addition, eight studies showed a 10 percent drop in risk for any cause of death with each 10-gram per day increase in fibre intake. (10 grams of fibre is the equivalent roughly of eating two pears, 1/2 cup of 100% bran cereal or 1 cup oatmeal with ¾ cup raspberries.)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults consume 14 grams of fibre in every 1,000 calories they take in. That translates to approximately 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams daily for men aged 19 to 50.
The benefits of consuming fibre-rich foods have been known for decades, including lowering of blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and insulin, and possibly reducing inflammation.
High-fibre foods may also make people feel full sooner, and for longer, which helps curb overeating and weight gain.
It’s not difficult to consume an extra 10 grams of fibre per day, the researchers said. “This can come from two servings of whole grain foods, such as breakfast cereal and two servings of fruit or vegetables, for example.”
The current study does not prove that eating more fibre is the reason some participants lived longer. Their reduced risk of death might be due to some other shared characteristic, like an overall healthier lifestyle, or perhaps some other property of the high-fibre foods, which tend to be nutritious in general.
Little is known about the best sources of fibre for reducing disease risk - whether the best sources are fruit and vegetables, legumes or grains. There is increasing evidence, however, that cereal grains may offer the best risk reductions for colorectal and cardiovascular disease.
The findings do not suggest taking dietary fibre supplements will have the same impact as eating fibre-rich foods.
Source: American Journal of Epidemiology, online December 31, 2014.
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