A recent study commissioned by the World Health Organisation has elucidated the link between fibre and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, perhaps contrary to the wealth of pseudo-science from dieting communities which often advocate a low carbohydrate diet. But, are all carbohydrates created equally? And what role does fibre play in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease? The research built on a landmark study from 2013 from the University of Leeds which discussed the notion that each extra 7 grams of fibre in the diet can significantly reduce the risk of the development, progression and rate of attainment of cardiovascular disease. Often, fibre is more frequently touted as the solution to many digestive system ailments due to its osmotic effect in the intestines, yet the emerging research which bookmarks 50 years of studies into the effect of dietary fibre seem to indicate a valuable role in the management of cardiovascular disease. So how does fibre curb this risk?
Fibre has an effect of reducing the amount of low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your blood with as little as 5-10 grams of soluble fibre. Great sources of fibre include pulses, nuts, breads and oats and can easily be implemented into your everyday consumption. This change in LDL:HDL cholesterol level augments the relative ratio in favour of HDL cholesterol which is known for it’s anti-heart disease effect on the walls of the arteries and vascular networks. The difference in mortality between those with highest and lowest consumption is a 15-30% decrease in all-cause mortality, a reduction rivalling some of the interventions perceived typically as more potent such as exercise and anti-hypertensive drugs.
A further aspect of the research delved into the relationship between food with a low glycemic indiex (GI) and the risk for strokes and type 2 diabetes, further strengthening the evidence base for wholegrain carbohydrates such as brown rice which typically cause a slower release of energy over the day, preventing large spikes in insulin which are a well known risk factor for the aforementioned conditions. Other well documented research has evaluated and confirmed the relationship between high GI foods (those high in glucose and simple carbohydrates) and a large insulin response, followed by a crash of blood sugar levels. These spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels often lead to insensitivity and eventually type-2 diabetes, although other mechanisms contribute to this risk.
The takeaway from this study: each 8g increase in fibre in the diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of gastrointestinal cancer by 5-28%. The recommended amount of fibre in the diet is over 25g, preferably 30g. These may be sourced from wholegrain carbohydrates and fruits which are rich in other nutritious factors, vitamins and minerals and therefore are beneficial to other aspects of health and wellbeing. Reducing the amount of refined and processed carbohydrates and replacing with wholegrain options is a great way to increase your dietary fibre, as the processing method often vastly reduces the fibre content of most foods. A simple change in your daily consumption may be switching white rice (refined) for brown rice (unrefined, wholegrain).
Read the guardian article here:
Read the WHO study in The Lancet soon.