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Fiber and Disease Prevention

Fiber is an important part of any healthy diet. Adults should consume between 20 and 35 grams of fiber per day. This amount of fiber provides energy, improves health and also helps to prevent or treat the following diseases:

Type 2 diabetes – A high-fiber diet seems to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. Foods that are high in fiber often have a low glycemic index and thus help to regulate blood-sugar levels. Low-fiber foods, on the other hand, are high on the glycemic index and cause big spikes in blood-sugar levels. A diet low in cereal fiber and high in high-glycemic index foods can more than double the risk for the disease.

Cancer – Do high-fiber diets reduce the risk of colon cancer? Research shows varying results. One large-scale study provided evidence in favor of fiber’s protective role, observing that those eating a high fiber diet (36g or more of daily fiber) were 25 percent less likely to develop polyps than those eating fewer than 12 grams.

Heart disease – If you have a high intake of dietary fiber, your risk for heart disease can be significantly reduced. In one Harvard study, those who had a high dietary-fiber intake had a 40 percent lower risk of getting heart disease than those with a low intake. The fiber in whole grains appears to be particularly beneficial. Several studies also suggest that higher intake of fiber may help prevent metabolic syndrome (a combination of medical disorders including obesity, insulin resistance, high blood sugar, dyslipidemia and high blood pressure).

Digestive disorders – Because insoluble fiber speeds up the passage of foods through the stomach and intestines, it helps to prevent and alleviate constipation. The fiber in wheat bran and oat bran is particularly effective. Fiber may also help reduce the risk of diverticulosis, a disease which involves inflammation of the bowel and affects a huge percentage of the American adult population. Increased fiber consumption can also help to alleviate the symptoms of this disease.