Eating a diet rich in fibre has long been known to help keep your digestive tract working properly. It’s also thought to lower the risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes. Now, a new study suggests it could reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases. People who ate a high-fibre diet decreased their risk of dying over a nine year period compared to those who ate less fibre, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The findings are based on a diet study from the National Institutes of Health and AARP, which included 219,123 men and 168,999 women ages 50 to 71 when the study began. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute examined food surveys completed by the participants in 1995 or 1996. After nine years about 11,000 people died and researchers used national records to determine the cause.
People who ate at least 26 grams per day were 22 percent less likely to die than those who consumed the least amount of fibre — about 13 grams per day or less. Men and women who consumed diets higher in fibre also had a reduced risk of cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases, the study found. Getting fibre from grains seemed to have the biggest impact, the authors write.
The study has some limitations — mainly, people who ate high-fibre diets might also have been more likely to eat healthier diets overall, attributing to their longevity. Still, the study offers more evidence that fibre is certainly good for you. Federal dietary guidelines recommend people consume at least 14 grams of fibre per 1,000 calories, so about 28 grams for an average 2,000 calorie-per-day diet. But many experts say many people don’t get enough.
Grains consist of three layers: the fiber- and nutrient-containing bran and germ layers and the starchy kernel layer. Refined grains, like white flour, are largely stripped of the bran and germ; whole grains — such as oatmeal, brown rice, barley and breads made from whole wheat — retain more of those components.
Studies suggest that the fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients in whole grains may help lower cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as improve blood vessel functioning and reduce inflammation in the circulatory system.
In the new study, Qi and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School in Boston found that among 7,800 U.S. women followed for 26 years, those with the highest bran intake were 28 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who consumed the least bran.
Similarly, they were 35 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease (heart disease or stroke) specifically.
The findings, published in the journal Circulation, do not prove that bran-heavy diets were the reason for the lower risks.
However, the connection was not explained by generally healthier lifestyles among the bran lovers. When the researchers accounted for other diet habits — like fat intake and total calories — as well as the women's weight, exercise levels, smoking history and drinking habits, the link between higher bran intake and lower death rates remained.
This suggests that bran intake itself may help lower diabetics' risk of premature death, according to Qi.
He suggested that women and men with diabetes try to replace refined grains in their diets with bran-rich whole grains.
That said, the researcher pointed out that the risk reductions in this study were seen across a large population — with bran lovers showing a relatively lower risk of death than those who ate little bran. That does not mean that for any one person with diabetes, boosting bran intake would have a substantial effect on longevity.
The findings are based on 7,822 women with type 2 diabetes who were part of the Nurses' Health Study, a long-term study of U.S. female nurses begun in 1976. Every two years, the women answered the questions about their lifestyle, medical history and any disease diagnoses.
Over 26 years of follow-up, 852 study participants died, including 295 women who died of heart disease or stroke.
Overall, Qi's team found, women in the top 20 percent for bran intake had a 28 percent lower risk of dying from any cause during the study period, compared with women in the lowest 20 percent. Their risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 35 percent lower.
The group with the highest bran intake typically consumed 9 grams of bran per day — about 10 times more than the lowest-intake group. In general, experts recommend that adults get at least 3 to 4 “ounce equivalents” of whole grains each day; a slice of whole-grain bread or a cup of whole-grain cereal are examples of one ounce equivalent.
SOURCE: http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/CIRCULATIONA HA.109.907360v1 Circulation, online May 10, 2010.
Apples could become the next fish when it comes to boosting health.
In March 2005 Cornell University scientists discovered that phytochemicals in apples could help prevent breast cancer, found in a mouse study. Study author Rui Hai Lui concluded eating apples “may be an effective strategy for cancer protection” Studies also suggest that apples can thwart lung, prostate, pancreatic and other digestive cancers.
Quercitin found in apples might even prevent lung damage in smokers, found by UCLA researchers and published May 2008. Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and a professor of public health and epidemiology. “The findings were especially interesting because tobacco smoking is the major risk factor for lung cancer. The naturally occurring chemicals may be working to reduce the damage caused by smoking.”
The health benefits of apples also extend to the brain. A study underwritten by the apple industry found that mice with Alzheimer's disease and even normal mice experienced memory improvement from receiving apple juice concentrate in their water. Two to 3 glasses of apple juice a day should be enough and it's important to combine apples with an otherwise balanced diet.
Professor Thomas Shea who conducted the study starting in 2002 says mice that drank too much apple juice “became bloated and lethargic”, negating the positive effects of apple juice for boosting memory.
Pectin in apples and other fruit may play a key role in lowering bad cholesterol, shown in several observational studies. Apples are also high in soluble fiber. The American Heart Association recommends soluble and insoluble fiber intake daily as part of a heart healthy diet. Apple pulp is a soluble and apple skin is an insoluble fiber. The Apple Association also published a study May 2008 suggesting that apple juice antioxidants might prevent atherosclerosis, found in a rodent study and published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. Additional benefits include reducing the chances of metabolic syndrome that leads to diabetes and heart disease, reported by the U.S. Apple Association.
This year, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign published findings that soluble fiber increased production of the anti-inflammatory protein called interleukin-4. The amount of soluble fiber needed to keep infection at bay – for instance from eating apples – is obtainable and not pharmaceutical. For the study researchers used citrus based pectin.
According to Gregory Freund, a professor in the University of Illinois' College of Medicine and a faculty member in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' Division of Nutritional Sciences, “It's possible that supplementing a high-fat diet with soluble fiber could reduce the negative effects of a high fat diet, “even delaying the onset of diabetes.” Apples are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber, making them an especially appealing addition to the diet.
Apples are not a panacea that can fight disease, but they do have a wide array of health benefit. It's important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Added to a balanced, nutritious and heart healthy diet, apples might rival fish for their health benefits.