We’ve heard for years that fiber is good for us in many different facets. It helps keep us regular, fills us up, and has even been shown to prevent cancer. Now, this miracle substance can lead to a longer life.
A study published on February 15, 2011 on the website of the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that higher levels of fiber appears to lower the risk of dying from respiratory and infectious diseases, as well as a reduced level of death from cancer in males. We have long known that fiber has a positive effect on heart health, so the results of the study were not surprising.
“The benefits of fiber are broader than what had been anticipated or previously studied,” says Frank Hu, M.D., who was the co-author of an editorial that accompanied the study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute.
It appears that the type of fiber consumed is key. Fiber from whole grains gave the greatest benefit, while fiber from vegetables and beans appeared to have a minimal impact on death risk. The fiber in fruit offered no benefit at all. “We only see significant effects from whole grains,” says the lead author of the study, Yikyung Park. “But we don’t know how this fiber works to improve health.”
The study was based on a survey that was sent to more than half a million AARP members between the ages of 50 and 71. They answered questions about their eating habits over the course of nine years. Those who ate more than 25 grams of fiber were 22% less likely to die from any cause during the study than those who ate roughly half as much fiber.
Men in the high-fiber group were 24% less likely to die from heart disease, 31% less likely to die from respiratory diseases, 56% less likely to die from infectious diseases, and 17% less likely to die from cancer. The decreases in risk were similar for the women in the high-fiber group, excluding cancer. It is not known why the results were different for the sexes, but one reason may be that fiber helps lower the risk in cancers most commonly found in males.
Try these great whole grain recipes: