Eating More Fiber May Lower Risk of Stroke

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According to a new British study, eating more fiber-rich foods appears to lower stroke risk [1]. The research is published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

High-fiber foods


The meta-analysis combined the results of eight studies published between 1990 and 2012 from the United States, northern Europe, Australia, and Japan. Scientists found that a simple seven gram increase in daily dietary fiber — equivalent to one serving of whole wheat pasta plus two servings of fruits or vegetables — was associated with a seven percent decrease in first-time stroke risk [1].

Dietary fiber is the part of the plant that the body is unable to completely digest. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.

Dr. Victoria Burley, the project lead from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds said [2]:

Increasing your fibre intake doesn’t necessarily mean wholesale change to your diet. It might just mean switching from white bread to wholemeal, or from corn flakes to bran flakes. It’s a simple measure with a lot of benefits.

Want to increase fiber in your diet? For ideas, check out Mayo Clinic’s chart of high-fiber foods. For more high-fiber meal ideas, try the National Fiber Council’s Fiber Calculator.

How fiber works

Fiber moves quickly and reasonably easily through your digestive tract and helps it function properly. Fiber can lower blood sugar, cut cholesterol, and may even prevent colon cancer and help you avoid hemorrhoids. A high-fiber diet may also help reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

In the stomach and small intestine, fiber promotes a sense of fullness, traps cholesterol and fats, and slows absorption of sugars. This helps to regulate your weight, lower cholesterol and improve blood glucose levels. In the large intestine (colon), fiber causes fermentation, promotes growth of healthy bacteria, and absorbs water, adding “bulk” to stool. This enhances your immune system to fight infection and chronic disease, and promotes regularity and elimination, minimizing constipation.

For more on how fiber works, check out the infographic below from the National Fiber Council.

How fiber works

References

  1. Threapleton et al. Dietary fiber intake and risk of first stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Stroke. 2013 May;44(5):1360-8. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.000151. Epub 2013 Mar 28.
    View abstract
  2. Eating more fibre may lower risk of first-time stroke. University of Leeds. 2013 Mar 28.
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.