Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- A little fiber history
- What is fiber?
- Fiber for weight control
- Fiber for controlling diabetes
- Fiber for preventing heart disease
- Fiber for bowel disorders
- Fiber for preventing or treating constipation
- Recommendations for fiber intake
- Some helpful hints about fiber
- High-Fiber Foods Slideshow Pictures
- Food Frauds Slideshow Pictures
- Take the Diet & Nutrition Quiz
Fiber for weight control
There is some evidence that "bulking up" could lead to slimming down. In a recent study of more than 1700 overweight and obese men and women, those with the highest fiber intake had the greatest weight loss over 24 months. Results from the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) from 1994 -1996 also supported the relationship between a high-fiber intake and lower body weight. One of the reasons that fiber may have an impact on body weight is its ability to slow the movement of food through the intestines. The gel-like substance that soluble fibers form when they dissolve in water causes things to swell and move slower in the intestines. This increase in time that foods stay in the intestines has been shown to reduce hunger feelings and overall food intake. It has also been shown to decrease the number of calories that are actually absorbed from the ingested food. One study showed an increase in the number of calories that were excreted in the stools when high-fiber psyllium gum-based crackers were given in comparison to low-fiber crackers. Whenever fewer calories are taken in, or more are excreted, weight loss will generally occur.
Fiber for controlling diabetes
A high-fiber diet may be just what the doctor ordered to get your blood sugars under control. Keeping our blood sugars stable is a goal that we would all benefit from. If you don't have type 2 diabetes, this could be the way to prevent it. If you do have it, this could be the way to keep it under control. The best time to address type 2 diabetes is before it has developed. Research has shown that high-fiber diets can help prevent this form of diabetes. The most recent study on done on overweight and obese men and women without diabetes showed reductions in blood sugar and insulin with the use of a high soluble fiber supplement. A German clinical trial reported that eating fiber-enriched bread for only three days improved insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese women by 8%. If a diet intervention this small can have that great of an impact, you can imagine what years of following a high-fiber diet, filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains would do. The good news for those with diabetes is that increasing your fiber now can also prevent long-term complications from diabetes. Soluble fiber has been found to produce significant reductions in blood sugar in 33 of 50 studies testing it. In clinical intervention trials ranging from two to 17 weeks, consumption of fiber was shown to decrease insulin requirements in people with type 2 diabetes. If you have ever had to inject yourself with insulin, you can appreciate how much easier and less painful it would be to increase your fiber intake to avoid the need for insulin injections.
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