Last month we took a look at one of the more overlooked nutrients—fiber. We discussed the ways in which fiber can control weigh gain or loss depending on your needs. This month we're taking a deeper dive into the importance of fiber and its relationship with metabolic illness.
Fiber is a great help in the fight against diabetes, metabolic disease and other related issues such as insulin resistance and high blood sugar level
One simple way that fiber helps with diabetes and metabolic disease is its ability to reduce the blood sugar response and consequent insulin spike following a meal. Over the long term, this improved efficiency and blood sugar control can improve the health of your cells, your insulin sensitivity and is closely correlated to obesity and diabetes risk factors.
Additionally, high fiber foods or supplements, such as our Quest bars, also have a lower glycemic load and index, which means they generally create a lower blood sugar spike, especially if combined with other macronutrients such as protein (6).
Two large review studies also found that those with a higher fiber intake had reduced risk and development of diabetes. In one of these, 19% of participants witnessed a protective effect, while another review of over 400,000 estimated that there was a 29% reduction in the development of diabetes (7)
Although these larger reviews and observational studies have limitations, smaller controlled studies have also seen tremendous benefits.
One famous study testing this placed over 500 overweight men and women on a new calorie controlled diet. They found those with the highest fiber intake during the study lost the most weight and had a 61% reduction in pre-diabetes over a 4 year period (8).
As shown above and in this study, along with controlling blood sugar levels, a higher fiber intake also promotes weight loss. For most forms of disease, such as diabetes and heart disease, losing weight still remains one of the most effective treatments and has a big impact on diabetes and metabolic disease.
Fiber Improves Cholesterol, Blood Pressure & Heart Disease Risk
Despite a healthy nutrition and lifestyle regime being one of the best ways to control these conditions, heart disease and associated risk factors still remains one of the top killers in the US.
Interestingly, one study found that those with the highest daily fiber intake had a 29% lower risk of developing heart disease than those with the lowest intake. In addition, they found that consumption of around 6 grams of soluble fiber reduced unhealthy LDL cholesterol by 5%, blood pressure by 6 points and, in total, reduced their estimated risk of heart disease by around 10% (8)
Remember, unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure are 2 of the biggest risk factors in heart disease, along with blood sugar control and excess weight which we’ve already described above how fiber can improve this.
The graph below presents fiber intake, monitored over a 12 and 24 month period, showing that two difference sources helped lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels by up to 25%.
Finally, a review of fiber, depicted in the table below, summarizes the findings from 5 different research trials, showing that a higher fiber intake had a beneficial effect on LDL levels in all 5 individual trials.
As you can see above, fiber helps to counter the key risk factors of heart disease, such as cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, excess body fat and high blood pressure. In turn, it’s no surprise that a high fiber intake is key for general health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
In the final installment in this three-part series on fiber, we’ll dive into the effects of fiber on gut microbiome, the best sources of fiber and a quick review of everything covered throughout.
Rudy Mawer is a sports scientist, researcher and sports nutritionist. He's worked and consulted with NBA athletes, Hollywood Celebs, MLB athletes, Gold Medalists, World Record Holders, Pro Bodybuilders and even the US Navy. He specializes in the latest science then applying it to fat loss, hormones and female specific transformations. He has over 500,000 members on his famous physique plans and helps educate personal trainers on his seminars around the world.
6.) Jenkins, A. L., Jenkins, D. J., Wolever, T. M., Rogovik, A. L., Jovanovski, E., Božikov, V., ... & Vuksan, V. (2008). Comparable postprandial glucose reductions with viscous fiber blend enriched biscuits in healthy subjects and patients with diabetes mellitus: acute randomized controlled clinical trial. Croatian medical journal, 49(6), 772-782.
7.) Anderson, J. W., Baird, P., Davis, R. H., Ferreri, S., Knudtson, M., Koraym, A., ... & Williams, C. L. (2009). Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition reviews, 67(4), 188-205.
8.) Lindström, J., Peltonen, M., Eriksson, J. G., Louheranta, A., Fogelholm, M., Uusitupa, M., & Tuomilehto, J. (2006). High-fibre, low-fat diet predicts long-term weight loss and decreased type 2 diabetes risk: the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study. Diabetologia, 49(5), 912-920.
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