by Lynn Hinderliter CN, LDN

In 2000 a study purporting to prove that fiber was not protective against Colon Cancer was given a good deal of publicity, most of which was inaccurate rubbish. The study actually showed no such thing.

What it DID show was that if people spend a lifetime (an average of 61 years in this study) eating a low fiber diet, adding fiber when disease has struck will not reverse it. Surprise! The researchers even commented that if fiber affects the change of small polyps into larger ones, or progression from large polyps into cancer, the study would not reflect this. The reportage on this has done a good deal of harm to the way people evaluate the importance of fiber in their diet which I think is unconscionable: please do not be fooled: fiber is terribly important to your health. Read on.

In the very  same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Tim Byers, M.D., M.P.H. from the University of Colorado School of Medicine pointed out that “…observational studies around the world continue to find that the risk of colorectal cancer is lower among populations with high intakes of fruits and vegetables and that the risk changes on adoption of a different diet, but we still do not understand why.”

What is more, studies subsequent to this have once again affirmed that fiber does protect the colon:  one published in the Lancet  showed a 25% lower risk of colon cancer for those eating 35 gms of fiber a day or more, and the European study showed a 40% reduction in risk.  There is an abundance of positive research on the role of fiber in diabetes and cardiovasular disease.

Listening to the Radio one morning some years ago, I was amused to hear the announcer present a piece on fiber and its role in preventing disease, rather as though some new comet had burst on the scene. My feelings about the importance of fiber are no secret, and reflecting on that I look back through my lifetime in Natural Foods, and remember some highlights, such as when I told gentleman and his wife in 1980 or so that oat bran played a role in lowering cholesterol and got told bluntly that I was a fool they wanted nothing to do with.( I remember writing an article for a local magazine at about the same time, saying that soy foods were an important and healthy alternative to meat: I expected to be hailed as a hero – they grow soybeans around here, after all: instead. the unfortunate publication folded, partly because of the wrath of local livestock farmers.)

At least, while the establishment continues to disseminate misinformation about fiber and cancer, it is acknowledging that it has a beneficial effect on Cholesterol (, and perhaps even more important for heart disease, insoluble fiber also lowers CRP ( C Reactive protein, a marker for inflammation)

There is a great deal of misinformation about good sources of fiber, and I personally think the levels of 30 grams per day frequently recommended may still be too low: many holistic practitioners prefer to aim for 50 grams, which, as I am always telling people, takes some doing and almost HAS to lead to a more healthy diet because processed foods do not contain fiber unless it has been added—many of you are probably too young to remember the scandal in the 70s when the importance of fiber was first being acknowledged, and some enterprising manufacturer of white bread added it—cellulose in the form of sawdust!

A Boston University study (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 5, 1237-1245, November 2004) discovered that regular intake of whole grains was instrumental in controlling middle age weight gain: ” The increased consumption of whole grains was inversely related to weight gain, and the associations persisted after changes in added bran or fiber intakes were accounted for. This suggests that additional components in whole grains may contribute to favorable metabolic alterations that may reduce long-term weight gain.

Adding 1 cup of oatmeal, 3/4 of a cup of brown rice,
or 2 slices of real whole grain bread a day to one’s diet
can block weight gain of as much as 3.5 lbs.

This should mean that as of reading this, people will instantly decide not to eat white bread except on special occasions, when it can be thought of as cake: in my childhood, my Swedish foster mother baked rye and whole grain breads for everyday, and white bread for special feast days and treats. 100 grams of white bread has .2 grams of fiber: whole wheat has 1.6. White rice has .3 grams of fiber, brown has .9 per 100 grams. One half cup of oatmeal has 7.7 grams of fiber – you get the picture!

Pre-school age children do not get enough fiber

Vegetables are excellent sources of fiber – a half cup of spinach has 5.0 grams. Beans and lentils are treasure troves of fiber – a half cup of kidney beans, cooked, has nearly 6 grams. Apples, pears and berries are high in fiber – eat the skins! The point here is that if you are eating each day in order to reach the recommended level of fiber, you simply will not have room in your diet for the bad stuff. Sugar does not have fiber. Fats do not have fiber. Meats do not have fiber. If you aim each day to eat your necessary amount of fiber, you will not only be less susceptible to heart disease and diabetes, you will also not be obese, not have high cholesterol, and not fall prey to many of the other ailments that flesh is heir to, simply because your diet will be infinitely more healthy.The recommended amount of fiber for each 1000 calories is 14gms:  but a study tracked food consumption of 2 to 3 year olds, and then compared it to 4 and 5 year old children.  Remember, food habits are imprinted by the age of 2 – therefore, the finding that the younger group ate less fiber than the older group (not only that, but the contribution to the measurement of high fiber fruits and vegetables was too slight to measure!) and that the fiber intake of BOTH groups was inadequate, is a very disturbing negative indicator of future health problems.

Choosing your foods based on the amount of fiber present will automatically eliminate many of the foods that are detrimental to your health. If you still have trouble reaching your goal, there are both dry mixes and pills that will add significant grams of fiber to your daily regimen. In fact, I just recently found a WATER that has fiber added to it – tasted pretty good, too!

Fiber is the one of the most important keys to a healthy diet and a healthy body: don’t overlook its importance because of more glamorous possibilities, and don’t be misled by flawed studies into thinking it is not significant. Just consider how our bodies were created to eat, and you cannot overlook the plan of nature for our correct nurture.

Fiber has effects far beyond the Colon, where its cleansing and stimulating effects help detoxify: it acts as a scrubber in our system, helping to normalize cholesterol, triglycerides and also blood sugar. Lack of fiber in the diet can be a factor in the development of hemorrhoids, and perhaps also varicose veins. The presence of adequate fiber in the intestinal tract certainly inhibits the absorption of various toxic chemicals.

There are different kinds of fiber from various sources with different effects: it is important to make sure that your fiber is coming from a variety of foods: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds, lentils, beans & dried fruits. Be sure to leave the skin on your fruits and potatoes. There are also fiber supplements you can use which are generally very useful, in that they select from a wide spectrum of fibers, some of which might not be easily available in the diet—such as Fenugreek and Chitosan, Guar Gum , Flax and Psyllium, If you want to cover your bases as far as fiber is concerned, a supplementary pill or powder can be useful. Be sure to increase your water intake—8 glasses a day or so—and remember that extremely high intake of fiber can diminish the absorption of some of the important minerals. If you are using a fiber mix, always take any medication or supplements at a different time to make sure the absorption isn’t affected.

Here is an excellent listing of the fiber content of foods –

Find the recommended supplements here

Report on Fiber and appendicitis –

An interesting study on primitive African Diets –

Possible Medication/Fiber interactions –

A list of Fiber Content in Foods –

Fiber and Disease – notes from MedicineNet –

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