You probably know that you need to eat more fibre. Television advertisements, food labelling campaigns and the distant memory of high school health lessons drum into us the importance of a high-fibre diet.

But what are the actual benefits? And are we following all this advice? In a word, no.

Most Australians eat about 20 to 25 grams of fibre a day, when we’re supposed to get 25 to 30 grams. And that goal involves a combination of two types of fibre.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water and helps us lower the level of bad cholesterol in our body. Then there’s insoluble fibre, which (among other things) adds bulk to faeces to prevent constipation. Now new research reinforces that eating enough fibre could save your life.

This analysis collected 185 observational studies and 58 clinical trials, looking at the intake of fibre and how it affected outcomes like coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Only healthy people were included in the analysis.

What they found is that for every eight grams of additional fibre eaten a day, the incidence of coronary heart disease, diabetes and bowel cancer dropped by up to 27 per cent. A similar effect was found when they looked at how much whole grain people consumed – higher amounts of whole grains were associated with up to a 33 per cent reduction in the risk of chronic diseases.

They didn’t find any ill effects of consuming large amounts of fibre.

Implications

Almost all Australians need more fibre in their diets – this analysis demonstrates that it is absolutely a life-saving substance. So stock up on the fruit and vegetables, the whole grains and other unprocessed foods.

Simple changes can help make a difference – you could consider changing your breakfast to include oats or wheat, snacking on nuts at work, or changing that white rice for brown.

Last Reviewed: 16/02/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

For reference: Reynolds, et al. (2019). Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The Lancet doi: 10.1016/ S0140-6736(18)31809-9.

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