Eat More Fiber To Live Longer, Says New Study

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Eating more fiber has been associated with a variety of health benefits, but this one may be the best of all: you can live longer. According to a new study to be published in the June 14 print issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, dietary fiber may reduce your risk of dying from any cause.

Not all fiber is the same

The current recommended daily intake of fiber for adults, according to current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. Nutritionists and dietitians often espouse the virtues of eating more fiber in your diet to help keep you “regular” and to assist in the fight against heart disease, certain cancers (e.g., colon cancer), obesity, and diabetes. Now experts may add living longer to the list.

The new study included data from 219,123 men and 168,999 women who participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. These individuals had completed a questionnaire about their food intake when the study began in 1995 and 1996.

During an average nine-year follow-up period, 20,126 men and 11,330 women died from this study group. When Yikyung Park, ScD, of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues evaluated the food data with the cause of death, they found that the 20 percent of men and women who consumed the most fiber (29.4 grams for men and 25.8 grams for women), were 22 percent less likely to die than participants who ate the least amount (12.6 grams for men, 10.8 grams for women).

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Men who ate a high amount of fiber had a 24 to 56 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, and infectious diseases, while women who were high-fiber consumers had a 34 to 59 percent reduced risk in these disease categories.

A significantly reduced risk of total, cardiovascular, cancer, and respiratory disease deaths in both sexes was associated with dietary fiber from grains but not from other foods, however. Fiber from beans and vegetables was weakly associated with a lower risk of total death in both women and men, but fiber from fruits did not show benefits except for a slight reduction in respiratory disease deaths in both sexes.

Fiber content of foods varies greatly. One cup of whole-wheat spaghetti, for example, contains about 6.2 grams of fiber; one cup of cooked barley, 6 grams. Legumes are rich sources: 1 cup of cooked split peas, lentils, and black beans provide about 16, 15, and 15 grams, respectively. One artichoke offers about 10 grams, 1 cup of peas 9, and 1 cup of broccoli 5.

The authors of the new study point out that including foods rich in dietary fiber in your diet “may provide significant health benefits,” including the chance to live longer.

SOURCES:
Mayo Clinic
Park Y et al. Archives of Internal Medicine 2011 Feb 14 online: doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.18

Updated April 22, 2016

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