Also indexed as:Fiber Diets, High-Fiber Diets, Fibre Diet
Why Do People Follow This Diet?
Some scientists believe that whole grains, containing high amounts of insoluble fibre, protect against a few forms of cancer. In an analysis of the data from many studies, people who eat relatively high amounts of whole grains were reported to have low risks of lymphomas and cancers of the pancreas, stomach, colon, rectum, breast, uterus, mouth, throat, liver, and thyroid. Most research focusing on the relationship between cancer and fibre has focused on breast and colon cancers.
A diet high in fibre is protective against heart disease. Soluble fibre from beans, oats, psyllium seed, and fruit pectin has lowered cholesterol levels in most trials. Diets high in overall fibre have reduced triglyceride levels in a few clinical trials, but have had no effect in others. Research suggests that soluble, not insoluble, fibres are helpful in lowering triglyceride levels. A high-fibre diet that features both soluble and insoluble fibres also seems to reduce the risk of both fatal and nonfatal heart attacks.
High-fibre diets also may be beneficial for certain gastrointestinal conditions. Fibre slows the movement of food and acidic fluid from the stomach to the intestines. It may help people with duodenal ulcers by reducing the exposure of the small intestine to stomach acids. Diverticular disease has become increasingly common and is thought to be due primarily to the consumption of a low-fibre diet; diets high in fibre have consequently been shown to protect against diverticular disease.
Preliminary evidence suggests that high-fibre diets also may benefit people with type 2 diabetes, as well people with chronic pancreatitis. More research is needed to confirm these relationships.
In addition to reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases, high-fibre diets may have other benefits. Fibre fills the stomach, thereby reducing appetite. Recent research has suggested that high-fibre diets may protect against obesity. Increased intake of fibre promotes digestive health and reduces constipation. Additionally, high fibre foods are generally rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are important for overall health.
Although people can be allergic to certain high-fibre foods (most commonly wheat), high-fibre diets are more likely to improve health than cause any health problems. Beans, a good source of soluble fibre, contain special sugars that are often poorly digested, often leading to flatulence (wind). Cooking beans with kombu (a type of seaweed), epazote (a Mexican herb), or using an enzyme supplement called alpha-galactosidase can help reduce this problem by improving digestion of these sugars. The following cooking method can help too: When cooking dried beans, be sure to soak them overnight, then drain and rinse the beans. Cover with water again, bring to a boil, and skim the foam off the top of the water before reducing the heat to a simmer to finish cooking.
It is important to drink adequate fluids, especially water, when increasing fibre intake to minimise the possibility of constipation.
Fibre reduces the absorption of most minerals. To minimise this effect, multimineral supplements should not be taken at the same time as a high-fibre meal.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.