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“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”
Dietary Fiber Significantly Reduces Risk of Death
Most of us already know that a high-fiber diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Numerous previous research studies have associated a high-fiber diet with a decreased incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. However, there is very little research information available that directly links a high-fiber diet with a decreased risk of death from these or other diseases. Now, a newly published public health study puts some actual numbers on the potential health benefits of adding fiber to your diet. This study appears in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The NIH (National Institutes of Health)-AARP Diet and Health Study is an enormous prospective public health study, which has enrolled 219,123 men and 168,999 women between the ages of 50 and 71 years. All of these research study participants completed extensive dietary questionnaires, and all were closely followed for an average of 9 years.
During nearly a decade of follow-up, 20,126 men and 11,330 women participating in this study died of various causes. When the researchers compared the dietary fiber intake of the volunteers who died with those who did not die, several important findings were identified. High levels of dietary fiber intake appeared to decrease the risk of death for both men and women by about 22 percent, overall. A diet rich in fiber was also specifically linked to a significant reduction in the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, infection, and respiratory disease in both men and women; while men (but not women) appeared to have a lower risk of death due to cancer if they consumed a fiber-rich diet. Finally, as has also been found in previous diet-based studies (including several of the Mediterranean diet studies that I cite in my book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race), dietary fiber from whole grains appeared to provide the greatest benefit in terms of reducing the risk of death due to all causes.
While this study suffers from the same limitations as all other survey-based public health studies, its prospective methodology and its enormous population of research volunteers make this a very powerful public health study. Its finding that a diet rich in fiber (derived from whole grains) significantly reduces the risk of death from the most common global causes of death offer all of us an important strategy to improve our health and longevity.
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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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