MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
Prof. Burley: Although it’s been suggested for a long time that foods rich in dietary fiber may protect individuals from having a heart attack or stroke because they lower some of the risk factors for these diseases, trying to determine how much dietary fibre might be beneficial and whether these benefits are apparent in all populations around the world has been less easy to research. Our research at the University of Leeds has pooled the results of published large-scale follow-up studies and has demonstrated a consistent lowering of risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease with increasing dietary fiber intake. This dose-response trend suggests that even small additional increments in intake may be beneficial in the long term.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Prof. Burley: Because there are now more studies available for us to look at, we were able to look separately at the food sources of fiber. When we did this, we were able to see apparently greater benefits from increasing cereal foods rich in dietary fibre, rather than perhaps the ‘traditional’ sources of fibre – fruit and vegetables.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Prof. Burley: That they should continue to encourage patients to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods, regardless of their current state of health – we observed these benefits in populations who were originally healthy. In most high-income countries, average intakes of dietary fiber have remained well below government recommendations, and clinicians can have an important advisory role to play here. Clinicians do not have to advocate consuming herculean amounts of dietary fiber – benefits seem to be apparent even with modest increases in consumption, such as may be observed by swapping refined or white cereal foods for wholegrain or whole-wheat versions.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Prof. Burley: We would like to continue to research how dietary fibre is able to bring about these benefits, but also to explore why patients seem to have resisted dietary advice so far to eat more whole grains and high fiber food sources.
Dietary fibre intake and cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis