Fiber is sorely lacking in the diets of many Americans, according to new research presented at the Nutrition 2021 Live Online conference, the annual conference of the American Society for Nutrition.
Dietary fiber consists of different forms of carbohydrate that can’t be broken down by digestive juices and enzymes. This means that fiber often helps slow the absorption of more easily digested forms of carbohydrate, and it passes through the stomach and small intestine into the large intestine (colon). Certain forms of fiber help feed beneficial bacteria that live in the colon — and these bacteria release chemicals that may have a range of health benefits, including lower inflammation, better weight control, and even better mental health. In other words, fiber is about much more than having regular bowel movements — it plays an integral role in many different areas of your health.
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For the latest analysis, researchers used data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to estimate fiber intake in adults over age 19. Certain people were excluded from the analysis, including pregnant women and people who didn’t provide complete enough answers about their food intake. The researchers determined which study participants had diabetes based on either self-reporting or an A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) of 6.5% or higher. Which participants had prediabetes was based on either self-reporting or an A1C level between 5.7% and 6.4%. The researchers then compared fiber intake in men and women and based on diabetes status.
Few people with diabetes meeting daily fiber recommendation
Out of 14,640 participants, 26.4% had prediabetes and 17.4% had diabetes. Overall, only 7.4% of participants met the daily recommended fiber intake of 14 grams for every 1,000 calories they consumed. For women, the average fiber intake was 9.9 grams per 1,000 calories, while for men, it was 8.7 grams per 1,000 calories. People with diabetes tended to have a slightly higher fiber intake than those without diabetes — 10.3 versus 9.7 grams per 1,000 calories for women, and 9.6 versus 8.6 grams per 1,000 calories for men. But as these numbers suggest, a very small proportion of people with diabetes met the daily fiber intake recommendation — only 11.5% of women with diabetes and 8.0% of women without diabetes met it, while 8.6% of men with diabetes and 4.3% of men without diabetes met this recommendation.
The researchers concluded that especially among people with diabetes, focusing on eating more fiber may be an effective way to lower the risk for a number of health problems, including chronic diseases that are common in people with diabetes. More research is needed to compare health outcomes in people who meet daily fiber intake recommendations compared with the much larger group of people who don’t get enough fiber in their diet.
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