Eat Fiber Now to Avoid Heart Disease Later

Eating a high-fiber diet is an important step that young and middle-aged adults can take now to avoid future heart complications, according to new research from Northwestern University. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with Type 2 diabetes.

The study, which was presented at the American Heart Association’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention Scientific Sessions 2011, looked at data from roughly 11,000 nationally representative adults enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers factored the participants’ total cholesterol, blood pressure, diet, smoking status, and history of diabetes into a formula designed to predict their lifetime risk for heart disease.

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The investigators found that younger adults (defined as 20 to 39 years old) and middle-aged adults (defined as 40 to 59 years old) who had the highest fiber intake had a statistically significant lower lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those in the same age group with the lowest fiber intake.

According to the definitions used in the study, a high-fiber diet falls into the range of the 25 grams or more of dietary fiber a day recommended by the American Heart Association. (The American Diabetes Association recommends that adults with diabetes aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day.)

This is not the first research to show that fiber can have a positive impact on the heart — previous research has indicated that high-fiber diets can help people lose weight, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve blood pressure, all major factors in long-term heart health. However, according to DiabetesInControl.com, it is believed to be the first study showing the effects of fiber consumption on a person’s lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to Hongyan Ning, MD, lead author of the study, “The results are pretty amazing… The study suggests that starting a high-fiber diet now may help improve your long-term risk.”

To learn more about the research, read the article “Reduce Risks to Heart for Lifetime With Fiber.” And for more about fiber, click here to read a brief overview or check out diabetes dietitian Amy Campbell’s recent fivepart series on the nutrient.