High Fibre Carbohydrate Is Great for Good Health

High Fibre Carbohydrate Is Great for Good Health

By Rebecca Walton, wlr team

Key Takeaways

  • People who eat at least 25-29g of fibre a day have a 15% to 30% reduced risk of death and chronic disease
  • UK health advice is a target of 30g a day, but only 9% of us manage this amount
  • People who eat the most fibre also have lower body weight, lower systolic blood pressure and lower total cholesterol than those who eat the least

These findings are from an important major review commissioned by the World Health Organisation for upcoming new guidelines on fibre intake. 

The review included 185 observational studies containing data that relate to 135 million person years and 58 clinical trials involving 4,635 adult participants. Researchers focused on:

  • Premature deaths from and incidence of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Incidence of type 2 diabetes
  • Colorectal cancer and cancers associated with obesity: breast, endometrial, oesophageal and prostate cancer

For every 8g increase of dietary fibre eaten per day, total deaths and incidences of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer decreased by 5-27%. Protection against stroke, and breast cancer also increased.

Consuming 25g to 29g each day was adequate but the data suggest that higher intakes of dietary fibre could provide even greater protection.

For every 15g increase of whole grains eaten per day, total deaths and incidences of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer decreased by 2-19%.

Higher intakes of whole grains were associated with a 13-33% reduction in NCD risk - translating into 26 fewer deaths per 1,000 people from all-cause mortality and seven fewer cases of coronary heart disease per 1,000 people.

The meta-analysis of clinical trials involving whole grains showed a reduction in bodyweight. Whole grains are high in dietary fibre, which could explain their beneficial effects.

"Previous reviews and meta-analyses have usually examined a single indicator of carbohydrate quality and a limited number of diseases so it has not been possible to establish which foods to recommend for protecting against a range of conditions," said corresponding author Professor Jim Mann, the University of Otago, New Zealand.

"Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fibre and on replacing refined grains with whole grains. This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases."

Tips to Boost Your Fibre Intake

  • Swap white bread for wholemeal, granary or ‘high fibre’ white bread, rolls or pitta breads
  • Choose high-fibre breakfast cereals such as Shredded Wheat, Weetabix, branflakes, unsweetened muesli, porridge and instant oat cereals
  • Ditch white pasta and rice and instead opt for wholewheat pasta and brown rice
  • Eat more beans, lentils and peas – add them to stews, soups, stir-fries, even salads
  • Don’t peel potatoes – instead serve them with their skin such as jacket potatoes, wedges or minted new potatoes in their skins
  • Eat five fruit and veg every day – all are a good source of fibre, especially if you eat the skins, where appropriate
  • If you like baking, try using wholemeal flour in recipes
  • Nibble on a few nuts and seeds – although remember they are high in calories

A High Fibre Diet

A high fibre diet can help you keep hunger at bay whilst you're watching the calories. Using the food diary and databases in WLR will help you track fibre and calories to lose weight at the rate you choose. You can try them free for 24 hours.

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Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Andrew Reynolds PhD, Prof Jim Mann DM, Prof John Cummings MD, Nicola Winter MDiet, Evelyn Mete MDiet, Lisa Te Morenga PhD

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