More Fiber Could Save Your Life

Dietary fiber tied to better survival in patients with prior heart attacks

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

(RxWiki News) Here's another reason to make whole grains and vegetables a part of your diet: Getting enough dietary fiber may be a life-changing health decision for people who've had a heart attack.

Recent research looked at the link between dietary fiber consumption and death in people who had previously had a heart attack.

The researchers found that participants who ate the most fiber had better survival odds than those who ate the least.

These researchers noted that dietary fiber from cereals provided the strongest protection against death.

"Get your daily recommended amount of dietary fiber."

Shanshan Li, a doctoral candidate with the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, led this study on dietary fiber.

Dietary fiber is a part of food that the body cannot digest. Fiber is commonly found in vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes and whole grains.

According to the authors of this study, a greater intake of dietary fiber improves the way the body reacts to insulin, a hormone used to regulate blood sugar.

Additionally, the authors noted that a higher dietary fiber intake has been tied to a lower risk of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

This study looked at the association between dietary fiber and death from all causes and from heart problems among patients who had a prior heart attack.

The researchers used data from 2,258 women and 1,840 men who were free of heart disease, stroke or cancer at the start of the study (baseline), then survived a heart attack during the first follow-up period.

The women were followed for an average of 9.7 years after surviving the first heart attack, while men were followed for an average of 9.0 years.

The participants' dietary habits were assessed using a food questionnaire that was administered every four years. The researchers calculated the amount of fiber each participant reported eating.

During the post-heart attack follow-up, 682 women and 451 men died. Of those deaths, 558 were heart-related.

The participants in the highest fifth of post-heart attack fiber consumption were about 25 percent less likely to die as those in the lowest fifth.

Additionally, increased fiber intake from before to after a heart attack was significantly tied to lower rates of death.

The researchers concluded that greater intake of dietary fiber, especially cereal fiber, led to the lowest rates of death from all causes.

The authors acknowledged that the study had some limitations. For example, the food questionnaire's validity was unknown for participants reporting before and after a heart attack. However, the questionnaire was a reliable measure for assessing intake on a year-by-year basis.

This study was published on April 29 in BMJ.

The research was supported by National Institute of Health grants. One researcher disclosed research funding for a separate project from General Mills Bell Institute of Nutrition.

Review Date: 
April 28, 2014
Last Updated:
April 29, 2014