Fiber from fruit, cereal keeps heart healthy
Last Updated: 2004-02-23 16:00:19 -0400 (Reuters Health)
By Alison McCook
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Not all forms of fiber may offer equal protection from heart disease, new research released Monday suggests.
Specifically, investigators found that only dietary fiber from cereals and fruits - and not vegetables - appeared to reduce the risk of heart disease. "There was nothing at all for vegetable fiber, and we don't really know why," study author Dr. Mark Pereira told Reuters Health.
But even if future studies demonstrate that fiber from vegetables is useless in warding off heart disease, he said, eating vegetables provides people with many other important nutrients that protect against heart disease and other conditions.
"There are still many, many reasons to have vegetables in your diet," said Pereira, who is based at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
People should still strive to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, he added.
Although researchers have long known that eating fiber can help prevent heart disease, it has been unclear whether different forms of fiber protect people differently, and whether total fiber prevents heart disease just as well in both men and women.
During the study, conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Pereira and his colleagues pooled the results of 10 studies conducted in the U.S. and Europe. All told, the researchers reviewed information collected about fiber and heart disease from more than 330,000 men and women.
They found that for every increase in total fiber intake of 10 grams per day, the risk of developing heart disease within the next six to ten years fell by 14 percent. The same increment in fiber intake was associated with 27 percent decrease in the risk of dying from heart-related illness.
However, only fiber from fruits and whole grains appeared to reduce the risk of heart disease, while fiber from vegetables had no influence on heart health.
Eating more fiber appeared to reduce the risk of heart disease equally well in both men and women, Pereira and his team report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In comments to Reuters Health, Pereira said there are many potential explanations for why fiber may help the body ward off heart disease. For instance, research has shown that fiber can protect the heart by reducing levels of so-called "bad" cholesterol, decreasing the risk of blood clots and lowering blood pressure.
Although fiber from vegetables overall exerted no protective effect on the heart, fiber from certain "high quality" vegetables may still reduce the risk of disease, Pereira noted. Specifically, people who opt not for starchy vegetables like corn or potatoes but choose green, leafy vegetables that are fresh or frozen, rather than overly processed, may see some heart-healthy benefits, he said.
SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, February 23, 2004.