Research has shown that dietary fiber intake is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, studies have shown that most Americans do not consume the recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber. To summarize the current knowledge regarding dietary fiber, sources of food containing fiber, atherosclerosis, and heart disease risk reduction, CUNY SPH Associate Professor Dr. Ghada Soliman conducted a review published in the journal Nutrients.
Dr. Soliman explains that incorporating dietary fiber into one’s diet can help lower LDL-cholesterol via several mechanisms. Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms gel-like material which binds and sequesters cholesterol, and thus decreases hepatic lipid absorption and increases excretion, which in turn lowers blood lipid levels. Dietary fiber is not digested or absorbed and therefore, does not provide calories, but can be degraded by gut bacteria to generate short-chain fatty acids, which may help to lower blood cholesterol.
Dietary fiber as part of a healthy eating pattern has protective effects against a range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel syndrome, diverticular disease, obesity, and colorectal cancer. The recommended daily intake is 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams for men. Dr. Soliman notes that dietary fiber can also be used as a dietary change to complement statin monotherapy to lower total and LDL-cholesterol, and to reduce the prescribed dose of statin, decrease its side effects, and improve the drug tolerability.
“The abundance of dietary fiber in several food groups, including whole grains, protein foods, fruits, and vegetables, makes them attractive targets for chronic disease prevention and reduction of risk of atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Soliman writes. Whole food sources of soluble fiber include vegetables such as peas, brussels sprouts, sweet corn, potatoes with skin and broccoli; and fruits such as berries, dried fruit, pears and apples with skin; in addition to legumes, oats, and barley. Insoluble dietary fiber is found in whole grain, wheat, bran, nuts, seeds, and some fruits and vegetables.