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Eat More Fiber and Live Longer, Says National Cancer Institute


If you want to increase your chances of living a long life, load up on fiber, especially whole grains. According to new data from the National Cancer Institute, higher intake of fiber is associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular, respiratory, and infectious diseases.

Eating more fiber equals longer life

Generally, Americans do not eat enough fiber, and one reason for insufficient fiber intake is the decline in consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Yet these foods can reduce the risk of dying from certain diseases by up to 60 percent.

According to researchers for the National Cancer Institute, who conducted the research, “our study found that dietary fiber intake, especially from grains, was inversely associated with the risk of death from infectious and respiratory diseases.”

The researchers explained that inflammation is a significant factor in many infectious and respiratory diseases, and that fiber has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. “The anti-inflammatory properties of dietary fiber could explain, in part, significant inverse associations of dietary fiber intake with infectious and respiratory diseases as well as with CVD [cardiovascular] death,” they noted.

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Currently, the American Heart Association recommends people consume about 25 grams of fiber daily, while the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming 14 grams for every 1,000 calories. Yet most Americans eat only about half of the recommended amount of fiber daily.

In the new study, the National Cancer Institute investigators evaluated data from 219,123 men and 168,999 women who had participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. After analyzing the deaths that occurred over about nine years of study, the researchers discovered that subjects who consumed 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily had a 22 percent lower risk of death from all the causes.

More specifically, the highest intake of fiber was associated with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases ranging from 34 to 59 percent among women and 24 to 56 percent among men. Grains demonstrated the strongest association with a reduction in death.

Some of the foods highest in fiber include bulgur, barley, whole wheat flour, beans (navy, white, kidney, black, pinto), lentils, split peas, cornmeal, and dates. A number of all-bran cereals are also very good sources of fiber.

The researchers, led by Yikyung Park, ScD, noted that eating more fiber can help people live longer and “reduce the risk of premature death from all causes, especially from CVD and infectious and respiratory diseases.”

Park Y et al. Archives of Internal Medicine 2011; doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.18
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