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  • Writer's pictureisaacmathu

We Are (Still) Not Taking Fiber Seriously Enough in Our Diets

There have been worrying reports recently about an uptick in cases of colorectal cancer in young people under the age of 50. Cancer cases are rare in young people, so this is a major concern. And doctors have no idea why it’s happening (experts say increased testing and genetics don't explain the phenomena). 

There are several theories why younger people are getting colorectal cancer, with diet being one of the main ones. Specifically, some doctors say we are not getting enough fiber in our diets to maintain good colon health. 

In fact, a lack of fiber in most people’s diets is linked to a host of health problems like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 

Most People Are Not Getting as Much Fiber as They Should

The recommended daily fiber intake is 30g for men and 25g for women. But most people eat less than half the recommended amount. The increased popularity of low-fiber processed and fast foods has certainly contributed to the lower consumption of fiber. 

Fiber affects almost every major system in your body, through several pathways including gut bacteria, the nervous system, gut motility, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. 

Lack of adequate dietary fiber has far worse consequences than just constipation. Low fiber intake is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. 

Fiber and Gut Microbiota 

You can think of gut microbiota, or simply gut bacteria, as an entire system on its own. Some scientists even refer to it as an ‘organ’, though obviously not in a strict sense. 

This demonstrates just how important gut bacteria is to our health. It affects virtually every system in our body from the brain to the heart and even the immune system. It is also hugely important for gut health. 

Your body and gut bacteria exist in symbiotic harmony that has evolved over thousands of years. The bacteria get energy from us and in turn they do a whole lot for us like protecting gut lining, fighting pathogens, boosting the immune system and stabilizing our moods. 

Any disturbance to the population and diversity of gut bacteria affects your health. Fiber, particularly soluble dietary fiber or SDF, is the main source of energy for gut microbiota. 

If you don't eat enough fiber, it destabilizes gut bacteria, which in turn causes a number of health problems. 

Fiber and Heart Health 

One effect of not feeding your population of gut bacteria with adequate fiber is that your cardiovascular health suffers. But fiber on its own also has a direct impact on heart health. 

Soluble fiber binds to LDL cholesterol, the bad kind, in the small intestine, preventing it from entering the bloodstream. Instead it is excreted out of the body. This lowers levels of LDL in your body, which reduces your risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular issues. 

Both soluble and insoluble fiber have also been shown to lower blood pressure, which helps keep your heart healthy and reduces the risk of many other hypertension-related issues like kidney failure, eye problems and dementia.

Fiber and And Type 2 Diabetes

Unlike regular carbohydrates that are broken down by the body into glucose, fiber is indigestible, so it just passes through the gut. So a fiber-rich diet results in reduced uptake of glucose into your body. In addition, fiber slows down the absorption of glucose into blood, which prevents sugar spikes. 

Fiber lowers and stabilizes blood sugar. This reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, and helps with blood sugar control in people who are already diabetics. 

Keep in mind that repeated blood sugar spikes don't just put you at risk of diabetes. Over time, they can also lead to heart issues like stroke and heart disease. So even if you are not concerned about diabetes, you still have plenty of reasons to up your fiber intake. 

Researchers have also found that eating more fiber reduces insulin resistance. They are not exactly sure how this happens (there are several theories), but it is certain that a fiber-rich diet improves insulin sensitivity. 

Another reason fiber is great for preventing and managing type 2 diabetes is weight loss. Eating more fiber reduces how much glucose you take in and it keeps you feeling full for longer, so you eat less. 

Even just a little weight often loss results in an improvement of various health markers such as insulin resistance and blood sugar. 

How Much Fiber Should You Be Eating?

The recommended daily fiber intake is at least 30g for men and 25g for women. Because different types of fibers (soluble/insoluble, fermentable/non-fermentable etc.) have different health benefits, it’s important to eat a wide variety of fiber-rich foods. 

These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and tubers. 

Final Thoughts

Researching on how fiber affects different aspects and systems of our body, it’s clear that eating a fiber-rich diet is still one of the most underrated components of a healthy lifestyle. Adding more fiber to your diet, even without making any other major dietary changes, offers significant protection from multiple health problems including serious ones like colorectal cancer. 


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