A large population trial appears to confirm that a higher intake of dietary fibre, particularly water-soluble fibre, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The news supports daily reference values recommended by national health agencies, although most consumers still do not reach this level in their regular diets.
The team from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, US and the National Institutes of Health followed almost 10,000 subjects enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline.
After a follow-up of 19 years, the researchers identified 1843 incident cases of coronary heart disease and 3762 incident cases of cardiovascular disease. Those in the highest quartile of fibre intake, an average of 20.7g per day, were 12 per cent less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those in the lowest intake group, report the researchers in the latest issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
This risk reduction increased when comparing intake of water-soluble dietary fibre - those with an average intake of 5.9g daily reduced their risk of heart disease by 15 per cent compared to the lowest intake group.
Fibre has also been linked to reduced risk of some cancers, including colon cancer and cancer of the larynx.
In the UK the recommended daily fibre intake for adults is currently 18g, although this is based on the Englyst method. Under the AOAC method, currently being introduced to harmonise trade with the US and other European countries, the proposed benchmark is 24g.