Most people are familiar with the great number of health benefits of a high fiber diet such as better digestion and reduced risk of certain cancers. But a new study finds that a diet rich in fiber can also help us age better among other things. The study which was published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences was carried out by The Westmead Institute for Medical Research. For this particular study, researchers used data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study which is a benchmark population-based study that examined a cohort of more than 1,600 adults aged 49 years and older for long-term sensory loss risk factors and systemic disease. What they found was that people who ate more fiber were less likely to suffer from the many chronic diseases that come with aging.
Fiber and why it is important
Fiber, which is a type of indigestible carbohydrate, is an important component of a healthy diet. Humans need an adequate intake of fiber to maintain a healthy digestion by supporting gut microflora and movement of material through the digestive tract. But fiber is important for other physiological processes as well. Higher intake of dietary fiber has been associated with lower cardiovascular risk, type 2 diabetes risk, lower body weight, and lowered risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers from The Westmead Institute for Medical research set out to see if eating a high fiber diet was also linked to healthy aging.
About the study
For this study, researchers followed a total of 1,609 adults 49 years and older who were free of cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke at the beginning of the study. The subjects were followed for the next 10 years and data was collected using a semiquantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire to assess their dietary habits. The researchers examined whether the subjects ate a low fiber or high fiber diet for this particular study. The researchers also explored the relationship between carbohydrate intake and its effects on healthy aging. The study’s findings were statistically significant enough to inspire future research to dig deeper into the issue and see how exactly fiber contributes to healthy aging.
After analyzing the collected data, the researchers concluded that a total of 249 (15.5%) participants had aged successfully 10 years later. Furthermore, of all the factors examined such as total carbohydrate, intake, sugar intake, fiber intake, glycemic index, and glycemic load, researchers found that fiber made the biggest difference in what they termed “successful aging”. Other dietary components such as glycemic index was not associated with healthy aging as much. Successful aging was defined as an absence of common ailments that come with age such as depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, coronary artery disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory problems.
Is fiber all you need for health?
Although the study’s findings seem promising, it is still too early to start recommending dietary guidelines. The study of the role of food in human health is still in its infancy and there is much more to a healthy diet than just eating a lot of fiber. Furthermore, although fiber is important in digestion and metabolism so are other dietary components such as antioxidants, probiotics, and enzymes which is why these ingredients are part of weight management and digestion supplements like Bio X4. However, studies show that most people in the West don’t eat adequate amounts of fiber which might also explain the rise in chronic diseases we see today.
Expert opinion on the study
Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath, Ph.D., from the Institute's Centre for Vision Research and lead author of the study claims that their findings were statistically significant enough to call for further investigation. According to their findings, subjects with the highest intake of fiber had an almost 80% greater likelihood of aging successfully in the 10-year follow-up. In other words, these subjects were less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, depression, dementia, and functional impairment. Professor Gopinath also states that the study was the first of its kind to examine the relationship between carbohydrate intake and healthy aging.
Everyone wants to age gracefully and everyone hopes to maintain good health well into old age. Although most people will develop some health problems once they reach a certain age, this does not mean that being mentally and physically fit in your 60, 70s and even 80s is not possible. Researchers from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research have found that a diet rich in fiber content may be an important factor playing a role in the maintenance of good health in old age. However, more research is needed to know the mechanisms the underly this fact and as Professor Gopinath points out, it is still too early to start making the best diet plan plan based on this study’s findings.