A Fiber-Rich Diet is Heart Healthy

Dietary fiber intake was found to be inversely related to risk of cardiovascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Fiber is essential for good digestive health, and according to new research, it may play a role in promoting heart health too.

A recent review found that getting more dietary fiber was linked to a significantly lower risk for cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease, one of the most common types of heart disease.

The authors of this review noted that people can get extra fiber from a variety of sources, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

"Eat a balanced diet with a generous amount of fiber."

This study was led by Victoria J. Burley, PhD, from the Nutritional Epidemiology Group at the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. The research team reviewed studies that examined the relationship between dietary fiber intake and cardiovascular disease.

This research team searched six research databases to identify studies of interest that were published between January 1990 and August 2013. In order to be included in this review, studies had to follow up with participants for at least three years and report any heart disease-related events in relation to dietary fiber intake. Study participants also had to be generally healthy with no other chronic diseases.

A total of 22 studies were included in the final review.

The researchers found that as total dietary fiber intake increased, the risk of heart disease decreased. Specifically, they found that a 7-gram-per-day increase of total fiber was connected to a 9 percent decrease in risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also looked at fiber from specific dietary sources, including fiber from cereal, fiber from vegetables and fruits and soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fibers help with the feeling of fullness. They attract water and turn into a gel that slows down the removal of food from your stomach, and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Soluble fibers are found in oats, fruits and beans.

Insoluble fibers help prevent constipation. They do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the digestive system intact and help speed up the passage of food and waste through your gut. They are primarily found in whole grains and vegetables.

The researchers found that an increase of insoluble fiber intake by 7 grams per day was linked to an 18 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease, while a 4-gram-per-day increase of soluble fiber was linked to an 11 percent decrease in risk of cardiovascular disease.

An increase of 4 grams per day of fruit-based fiber was linked to an 8 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease, while a 4-gram-per-day increase of vegetable-based fiber was linked to a 6 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Finally, a 7-gram-per-day increase in cereal fiber intake was linked to a 16 percent decrease in risk of cardiovascular disease.

The authors of this review noted that an additional seven grams of fiber could be eaten by having just one serving of whole grains with a serving of beans or lentils, or through two to four servings of fruit and vegetables.

These authors further noted that cardiovascular disease is responsible for close to one third of all deaths in Europe and close to half of all deaths in the United States. They concluded that getting an adequate amount of fiber offers a potential strategy to reduce people’s risk of developing heart disease.

This study was published on December 19 in BMJ.

One of the study authors reported a potential conflict of interest with Kellogg Marketing and Sales Company.

Review Date: 
December 18, 2013
Last Updated:
December 19, 2013