New Study Suggests Eating More Fiber From Whole Grains May Prolong Your Life

A new study conducted by scientists at the National Cancer Institute, has found that consuming more fiber from whole grains like oatmeal, cornmeal, and brown rice may significantly reduce the risk of death, overall as well as from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases. The study, “Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study,” was published on February 14, 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the study, researchers analyzed data collected in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study from 400,000 men and women ages 50 to 71 over a period of nine years. They examined dietary fiber intake in relation to total mortality and death from specific causes in this study population. They measured fiber intake based on a food-frequency questionnaire answered by participants, and identified cause of death of the 20,126 men and 11,330 women study participants who died during nine years of follow-up by using the National Death Index Plus.

They found that higher dietary fiber intake was associated with a significantly lowered risk of death in both men and women. Overall, those study participants who ate the most fiber from whole grains were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause during the nine years of the study. In addition, higher dietary fiber consumption also lowered the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases by 24 to 56 percent in men, and by 34 to 59 percent in women. Dietary fiber intake was found to lower the risk of death from cancer in men but not in women. A high fiber diet provides important health benefits which may account for why it is associated with a significantly lower risk of death.

“Whole grains are rich sources of fiber, but also good sources of vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals that may provide health benefits,” said the study’s lead author, Yikyung Park, a staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute. He explained that it is not completely clear why fiber from whole grains reduces the risk of early death, but he suggested that it may be because fiber lowers levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), improves blood glucose levels, reduces inflammation, and binds to potential cancer-causing agents, helping to flush them out of the body. Grains have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which is cited as another reason why grain fiber is beneficial.

The study’s researchers concluded, however, that while dietary fiber from grains like oatmeal, cornmeal, and brown rice did significantly reduce the risks of death, both overall and from the causes referenced above, in both men and women, nevertheless intake of fiber from other sources did not correlate with lowered death risk. While fiber from fruits, vegetables, and beans may be beneficial in other ways, these fibers appeared not to have an impact on death risk among the study participants.

Find the original study in The Journal of Internal Medicine – Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.

Read more at the National Cancer Institute’s website about the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, from which the data analyzed in this study on Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality was derived.

Read more about the beneficial effects of fiber and the types of foods that are best to eat in an article by Angela Haupt and Katherine Hobson forU.S.News & World Report»


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