Massive health study finds dietary fiber intake slashes risk of numerous diseases

The consumption of dietary fiber can significantly improve one’s health by decreasing the risk of certain diseases. This was the conclusion researchers behind a 2011 study came to following data analysis of over 388,122 participants in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study.

At the beginning of the study in 1995, the participants—219,123 men and 168,999 women—completed food frequency questionnaires. They did this once more during the follow-up in 1996. Over the course of nine years of follow-up, 20,126 men and 11,330 women had died.

According to, the average fiber intake for men ranged from 13 to 29 grams per day, while the women took in 11 to 26 g per day. The one-fifth who consumed the most amounts of fiber were found to be 22 percent less likely to die than those who ingested the least. Furthermore, high fiber intake was found to decrease the chances of developing infectious, cardiovascular, and respiratory diseases by as much as 24 to 56 percent in men, and 34 to 59 percent in women.

However, these effects were only observed in the dietary fiber obtained from grains. No such impact was discovered in the fiber obtained from fruits and other sources of fiber.

“The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains frequently and consuming 14 grams per 1,000 calories of dietary fiber. A diet rich in dietary fiber from whole plant foods may provide significant health benefits,” said the authors of the study.

Fiber found to aid against colorectal cancer

A more recent study has tied high-fiber consumption with the reduced likelihood of dying from colon cancer. For this study, the researchers examined the data obtained from 1,575 adults with colorectal cancer. Each of the patients completed diet surveys that detailed the amount of fiber they consumed. During the eight-year follow-up period, 773 of the study participants died. Of those 773 who had passed on, 174 had died of colon and rectal tumors.

When compared with those who had the lowest fiber intakes, the researchers determined that every additional 5 g of fiber minimized the risk of death by colorectal cancer by about 22 percent. Moreover, high-fiber intake was linked to 14 percent lower mortality from all other possible causes of death.

Dietary changes brought about positive results as well. Increasing fiber consumption by 5 g following a colorectal cancer diagnosis decreased the odds of death from this disease by 18 percent.

Similar to the 2011 study, the benefits of fiber greatly varied with the type, however. “It appears that cereal fiber and foods high in whole grains seem to be associated with the lowest risk of dying from colorectal cancer,” said senior study author Dr. Andrew Chan.

Adding 5 g of cereal fiber a day was found to decrease the odds of death by colorectal cancer by 33 percent, and death from all other causes by 22 percent. Conversely, vegetable fibers could decrease the risk of death from all causes by 17 percent. Fruit fiber showed no noticeable effects on colorectal cancer or other causes.

Nour Makarem, a researcher from Columbia University in New York who wasn’t a part of the study, had this to say about the results: “Consuming a healthy diet that is high in whole grain foods (e.g. brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain cereals or whole wheat bread) and other fiber sources such as fruits and vegetables may protect from colorectal cancer and also improves outcomes and reduces risk of death among colorectal cancer survivors.”

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