Fiber is an essential part of the human diet. It helps regulate sugar, hunger and weight while keeping the colon healthy. But how much fiber do you really need? Well, a lot. And, according to a new study, high-fiber diets can lower your risk of death and chronic disease by as much as 30 percent.
The study, commissioned by the World Health Organization and published in the journal Lancet, analyzed data from 185 observational studies, including 58 clinical trials and 4,635 adults. What researchers found was that the higher the intake of fiber, the lower the risk of disease, including heart disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer and prostate cancer.
Those who followed a high-fiber diet also weighed less and had reduced cholesterol levels.
“The health benefits of fibre are supported by over 100 years of research into its chemistry, physical properties, physiology and effects on metabolism,” author and professor Jim Mann said in a statement. “Fibre-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favourably influence lipid and glucose levels. The breakdown of fibre in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects including protection from colorectal cancer.”
This isn’t the first study of its kind. However, as Mann pointed out, “previous reviews and meta-analyses have usually examined a single indicator of carbohydrate quality and a limited number of diseases so it has not been possible to establish which foods to recommend for protecting against a range of conditions.”
“Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fibre and on replacing refined grains with whole grains,” Mann added. “This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases.”
As to the exactly how much fiber you need, researchers found that consuming 25 to 29 grams each day was adequate, but their data also suggested that higher intakes could provide even greater protection. So pass the peas, beans, bran and lentils. These foods could (literally) save your life.