Dietary fiber refers to the indigestible components of plant-based foods. A growing body of evidence indicates that eating a fiber-rich diet decreases the risks of many chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and some types of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer. Findings presented in a 2015 report suggest that fiber-rich diets reduce the risk of all causes of premature death.
Public health recommendations for fiber intake vary based on a person’s age and sex. For example, females need between 22 and 28 grams of fiber per day, and males need between 28 and 34 grams per day. Most people living in the United States only get about half of the recommended amounts of fiber daily.
The authors of the report analyzed the data from 17 studies investigating links between dietary fiber intake and the risk of premature death. The studies involved more than 980,000 healthy adults and spanned a period of 20 years. The authors categorized the participants by age, sex, study population and location, dietary assessment method, and follow-up period. They also took various risk factors among the participants into account, such as their body mass index, physical activity level, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and whether they smoke or drank alcohol.
The analysis revealed that more than 67,000 of the various study participants died during the study period. Among the people that died, those with the highest dietary fiber intake were 16 percent less likely to die from premature causes when compared to those with the lowest intake. For every 10-gram increase of fiber intake per day, the risk of premature death decreased 10 percent.
These findings suggest that dietary fiber exerts a robust protective effect against premature death. Public health efforts aimed at increasing dietary fiber intake may be beneficial for reducing all causes of premature death.
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