A high fiber diet saves lives. Manufacturers of processed foods have worked hard to take the fiber out and put the sugar in to a lot of packaged foods. But a new study from the National Institutes of Health and AARP suggests that removing fiber is a big mistake.
More than 350,000 people over the age of 50 participated in the nine-year study. They filled out detailed questionnaires about what they ate so that researchers could calculate their nutrient intake. Those who ate more fiber were about 20 percent less likely to die from heart disease, cancer or other chronic illnesses. They also suffered less respiratory disease and fewer infections.
The greatest benefits came from diets rich in whole grains and legumes. The participants eating the most fiber got almost 30 grams of fiber daily for men and about 26 grams for women. Current recommendations in the US are in that range. Sadly, most people do not get that much fiber and the trends have been in the wrong direction.
[Archives of Internal Medicine, online Feb. 14, 2011]