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Even your great-grandmother knew fiber was the secret to keeping you “regular.” But fiber has many other surprisingly powerful health benefits. Here are nine other excellent reasons to bulk up on fiber.
Even your great-grandmother knew fiber was the secret to keeping you “regular.” And science has proved it time and again. Studies show fiber can help improve constipation, incontinence, and even bleeding hemorrhoids. So no news there.
But fiber has many other surprisingly powerful health benefits you may not have suspected. Whether you get yours as grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables or even bamboo shoots[i], here are nine other excellent reasons to bulk up on fiber.
1. Reduce Heart Disease
The more fiber you get from grains, fruits, and vegetables, the lower your risk of coronary heart disease according to a meta-analysis published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers from China reviewed 18 studies involving more than 670,000 people. Those eating the most fiber reduced their risk of any kind of coronary heart event by seven percent compared to those who ate the least. Even more impressive, however, was the fact that their fiber intake was linked to a 17 percent drop in mortality risk.
Fiber may also prevent heart attacks. In a Harvard School of Public Health cohort study published in JAMA researchers reviewed fiber intake from 43,757 US male health professionals. Over six years men who ate about 29 grams of fiber per day reduced their heart attack risk by 41 percent compared to men who only ate 12.4 grams per day. They also decreased their risk of fatal coronary disease by 55 percent.
Each 10 gram increase per day in overall dietary fiber lowered heart attack risk by 19 percent. But fiber from grains was most effective. Every 10-gram increase in fiber per day from grains reduced heart attack risk by 29 percent.
Other studies show that men eating the most fiber from cereal grains lowered their risk of peripheral artery disease by almost 40 percent. And fiber from fruit pectin can prevent blockage in the carotid artery.
2. Lower Blood Pressure
A double-blind placebo controlled study of 110 people in New Orleans with high blood pressure concluded that a diet rich in fiber can help lower blood pressure. Participants were given eight grams per day of water-soluble fiber from oat bran or a placebo. Over 12 weeks their systolic blood pressure was lowered an average of 2.0 mmHg and diastolic pressure by an average of 1.0 mmHg.
Insoluble fiber is also effective to lower blood pressure according to a prospective study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Data from 2,195 people revealed that for every extra four to six grams of insoluble fiber eaten, systolic pressure dropped 1.81 mmHg.
3. Barrett’s Esophagus
A meta-analysis of 15 studies involving 16,885 subjects found that dietary fiber is inversely associated with the risk of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. Barrett’s esophagus is a change in the esophageal epithelium resulting from chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is a precursor to esophageal cancer, one of the fastest growing forms of cancer in the U.S., with a poor prognosis and few therapy options. The meta-analysis showed that for every additional 10 grams per day of dietary fiber, the risk of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer dropped an amazing 31 percent.
And a study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that people eating the most fiber from fruits and vegetables (13.2 grams per day) had a 53 percent lower risk of Barrett’s compared to those who ate the least (3.2 grams).
4. Reduce Cancer Risk
A large, prospective study found that individuals consuming the most dietary fiber from fruit and cereals have reduced risks colorectal and colon cancer. A high fiber diet was also found to reduce the recurrence of colorectal cancer by 35 percent.
Australian researchers found that 18 percent of colorectal cancers could be attributed to insufficient fiber intake, and that eating the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables every day could prevent 8.8 percent of all colorectal cancers. They also estimated that eating the recommended amount of fiber could prevent four percent of all cancers.
Fiber has also been linked to a 29 to 46 percent reduction in risk of endometrial cancer for women eating the most fruit, vegetable and cereal fiber compared to those eating the least.