Can Fiber Save Your Life

It might! For decades now we have learned about the importance of fiber for our health. Fiber comes from plants and is a form of carbohydrate, it gets digested by our gut microbiome. When we consume fiber we not only feed ourselves but we also feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. The most commonly known fact about dietary fiber is that it helps us stay regular by preventing constipation. It also helps us stay full faster and longer as it slows down digestion.

A recent systematic research review has shown fiber adds much more to our health than previously thought. In fact, a 35% mortality risk reduction was found when people consumed 35 gm of fiber daily. It also resulted in a decrease in waist circumference, LDL, A1c, triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Of note the participants in the review were all living with pre-diabetes or diabetes type 1 and 2. The review also pointed out the participants had a decrease in their A1c despite making no other changes in their eating behaviors. In other words, adding fiber alone helped improve their A1c levels, which was actually an increase in their total carbohydrate intake.

As mentioned above consuming fiber feeds our gut microbiome. Although the full extent of the effect of fiber on the gut microbiome remains uncertain we know it increases it’s diversity. The increase in diversity favors our “good” bacteria leading to a decrease in total body inflammation and a decrease risk of developing metabolic disease. These changes in the gut microbiome have been observed by increasing fiber alone. As we know changing our gut microbiome by making food changes can be challenging adding fiber might be the secret weapon!

In summary, fiber has vast health impacts both in our immediate and long term health. The average American does not consume enough fiber in a day. It can be difficult to get enough, especially if you don’t regularly consume fruits and vegetables. Other great source of fiber are nuts, beans and whole grains. A quick trick might be to add bran cereal in your yogurt or mixed in with another cereal you like. If you feel you really can’t get your daily fiber needs via food alone, consider a supplement.

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