Were We Wrong About Fiber?


In my video Is the Fiber Theory Wrong?, I present that fiber-containing meals might not solely help prevent coronary heart disease, but in addition help treat it as nicely. Heart sufferers who improve their intake of fiber after their first heart attack scale back their danger of a second and stay longer than those that don’t. But what if we don’t need to have a coronary heart attack within the first place? If 7 grams of fiber gets us a 9 % lowered danger, would 77 grams a day drop our danger by 99 %? That’s about how much fiber they used to eat in Uganda, a country by which coronary coronary heart disease, our number-one killer, was virtually nonexistent.

Heart disease was so uncommon among those consuming conventional plant-based diets in Uganda that papers have been published with such titles as “A Case of Coronary Heart Disease in an African.” After 26 years of medical follow in East Africa, docs finally recorded their first case of coronary coronary heart disease (in a decide who consumed a “partially Westernized diet,” through which fiber-free meals, corresponding to meat, dairy, and eggs, displaced a few of the plant foods in the conventional weight loss plan).

Were there so few instances as a result of Africans just didn’t stay very long? No, the general life expectancy was low due to illnesses of childhood, similar to infections, however, when Africans reached center age, they had one of the best survival charges, thanks partially to our number-one killer being nearly absent. Of course, since diets have been Westernized across the continent, coronary heart illness is now their number-one killer as properly, going from nearly nonexistent to an epidemic.

Some blame this modification on an excessive amount of animal fats, while others blame it on too little fiber, but they each point to the same answer: a diet centered on unrefined plant meals. In reality, typically, it’s simpler to convince patients to improve their diets by consuming more of the great foods to crowd out a few of the less healthful choices.

The “dietary fiber hypothesis,” first proposed within the 1970s, zeroed in on fiber as the dietary element that was so protecting towards continual disease. Since then, proof has definitely accrued that those that eat plenty of fiber look like shielded from several continual circumstances. But perhaps fiber is just a marker for the consumption of foods as grown, entire, unprocessed plant foods, the only main supply of fiber. Maybe all these studies displaying fiber is sweet are simply displaying that consuming plenty of unrefined plant meals is sweet. “Fiber is however one element of plant food, and to neglect the opposite elements [such as all the phytonutrients] is to significantly limit our understanding.”

Why did Drs. Burkitt, Trowell, Painter, and Walker—the fathers of the fiber principle—place all their bets on fiber? One attainable rationalization is that they have been docs, and we docs wish to assume when it comes to magic bullets. That’s how we’re educated: there’s one capsule, one operation. They have been clinicians, not nutritionists, and so they developed a reductionist strategy. The drawback with that strategy is that if we attain the incorrect conclusion, we might provide you with the fallacious answer. Burkitt saw disease charges skyrocket after populations went from consuming entire plant meals to subtle plant and animal foods. But as an alternative of telling individuals we should always return to consuming entire plant foods, he was so satisfied fiber was the magic element that his prime suggestion was to eat entire grain bread—although they never used to eat any type of bread in Uganda—and sprinkle some spoonfuls of wheat bran on your food.

However, research to today associating excessive fiber intake with decrease danger of disease and demise relate solely to fiber from food intake quite than from fiber isolates or extracts. It is by no means clear whether fiber consumed as a complement is useful. In retrospect, it might have been a mistake “to isolate fiber from the overall field of plant food nutrition.” The evidence supporting the value of fruits, greens, and entire grains, as opposed to only fiber, has proved to be rather more constant. Whole plant meals are of elementary significance in our weight-reduction plan. Fiber is just one of the useful elements of fruits, greens, nuts, grains, and beans. “Much of the effort on defining fiber and studying the fiber isolate would have been better applied to a whole-plant-food approach.”

What would have occurred if Burkitt and others had emphasized as an alternative the worth of plant meals? The worth of consuming unrefined plant food, which includes fiber and phytonutrients, may need been the main target of attention moderately than just remoted fiber, which led to individuals purchasing for their fiber in the complement aisle as an alternative of the produce aisle.


My Solving a Colon Cancer Mystery video is an ideal instance of the concept I introduced here. If fiber have been really the key, then sub-Saharan Africa can be rife with colorectal most cancers lately.

For an extreme instance, how about disease reversal with a food regimen centered on white rice? See Kempner Rice Diet: Whipping Us into Shape and Drugs and the Demise of the Rice Diet.

My video The 5-to-1 Fiber Rule discusses a method to determine much less processed meals utilizing fiber as a marker of entire foods.

For extra intrigue on the earth of fiber, take a look at Does Fiber Really Prevent Diverticulosis?.

And, when you’re considering, “Dr. Who?,” then, for a historical perspective, see Dr. Burkitt’s F-Word Diet.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t but, you possibly can subscribe to my free movies here and watch my reside, year-in-review shows:





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