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Roughing It: The Importance of Fiber Everyday

You hear it… You read it… Your doctor tells you eat more fiber, take more fiber, supplement with fiber. But do you really know why fiber is so important? Fiber reduces the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease and constipation.

High intake of dietary fiber has been linked to lowering the risk of heart disease. In a Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals, researchers found that a high total dietary fiber intake was linked to a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to a low fiber intake. Studies also indicate that a diet high in cereal fiber was linked to a lower rise of type 2 diabetes.

In North America, diverticulitis, an inflammation of the intestines (very painful), occurs in one-third of all those over the age of 45 and in two-thirds of those over age 85. Among male health professionals in a long-term follow up study, eating dietary fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, was associated with about 40% lower risk of diverticular disease.

Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the U.S. The gastrointestinal tract is highly sensitive to dietary fiber, and consumption of fiber seems to relieve and reduce constipation.

The benefits of fiber are numerous, but getting enough is difficult. Be sure you’re getting yours through your diet and supplementation every day.

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Soluble Fiber Insoluble Fiber
Oatmeal/ Oatbran Whole grain
Nuts & seeds Whole grain cereal
Legumes Wheat bran
Apples Seeds
Pears Carrots / celery
Strawberries Cucumbers / Zucchini
Blueberries Tomatoes

Eating a high-fiber diet as a teen may help prevent breast cancer later

Here’s another reason to freak out over your teen or college-aged daughter’s diet that seems to be based on ramen noodles and bubble tea: a new study finds that women who ate more fiber in their late teens and 20s had a much lower risk of breast cancer later.

A 20-year study of more than 90,000 women showed those who ate the most fiber while young had a 16 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate the least and a 24 percent lower risk of having breast cancer before menopause, which tends to be a harder-to-treat form.

It might be because fiber tends to lower the hormone estrogen, which drives many types of breast cancer, the team reports in the journal Pediatrics.

“From many other studies we know that breast tissue is particularly influenced by carcinogens and anticarcinogens during childhood and adolescence,” said Dr. Walter Willet, an expert on health and nutrition at Harvard’s school of public health who led the study team.

“We now have evidence that what we feed our children during this period of life is also an important factor in future cancer risk.”

Starting in 1991, women aged 27 to 44 at the time began answering questions about what they ate. In 1998 about half of them also filled out a questionnaire about what they ate in high school.

The women who ate the most fiber took in about 28 grams a day, compared to 15 grams a day or less for those who ate the least.

Twenty years later, the researchers looked to see who developed breast cancer and when.

The more fiber the women said they ate, the less likely they were to have had breast cancer. For each extra 10 grams of fiber they ate every day their breast cancer risk fell by 13 percent. Fiber from fruits and vegetables had the greatest effect, the team found.

“There is longstanding evidence that dietary fibers may reduce circulating estrogen levels,” Kimberly Blackwell, a breast cancer specialist at the Duke Cancer Center, wrote in a commentary in Pediatrics.

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