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A Fresh Look at Fiber and Type 2 Diabetes

Everybody knows that dietary fiber is important in regulating blood sugar, and several studies have suggested that dietary fiber can help most of us lower our risk of type 2 diabetes. We also know that fiber helps to regulate the passage of food through our digestive tract, slowing down the release of simple sugars from the carb-containing foods that we eat. But since type 2 diabetes is currently considered to be a disease closely related to inflammation, researchers have begun to wonder about the inflammation-related properties of fiber. Can fiber from our food lower our risk of excessive inflammation? Just how much fiber does it take to do that? And are some kinds of fiber better than others?

Researchers in the Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College Medical School in London, UK examined the diets of 4,252 men who were participants in the British Regional Heart Study. It was the 20th year that these men had participated in follow-up studies since becoming study participants in 1980! Inflammatory blood markers, including interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured to get a sense of inflammatory balance. Diet diaries provided the needed information on fiber intake. What the researchers discovered was the existence of clear trends toward lower inflammation and lower risk of type 2 diabetes as fiber intake increased. However, these trends were only noted at a level of 20 grams of daily fiber or higher. In fact, the rate of type 2 diabetes was almost 50% higher in men who consumed less than 20 grams of fiber per day as compared to men who consumed more than 31 grams. While vegetable/fruit fiber and cereal grain fiber were both found to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, vegetable/fruit fiber was determined to do a better job in this regard.

The connection between fiber and inflammation is very likely to involve intestinal bacteria. Several types of fiber can be consumed by bacteria in the lower intestine and converted into a short chain fatty acid called butyric acid. Not only can this fatty acid be used for energy by cells in the lower intestine, but it can also block inflammatory responses. It's interesting to see that the inflammatory benefits of fiber might require about 20 grams of fiber per day since that level is higher than the average fiber intake for U.S. adults (about 15 grams). But 20 grams of fiber is definitely not difficult to achieve in a diet based on whole, natural foods like the World's Healthiest Foods.

WHFoods Recommedations

In order for us to reap the full health benefits of dietary fiber-including its anti-inflammatory benefits-we may need a threshold amount of fiber in the range of 20 grams per day. It's not that smaller amounts will provide us with no benefit! It's that when it comes to fiber, every little bit helps. But we may need to set our sights upward in the range of 30 grams of daily fiber or more to get optimal fiber benefits-including the anti-inflammatory ones.

Getting that much fiber each day isn't really that challenging if you adopt the World's Healthiest Foods as the foundation of your Healthiest Way of Eating. Just think if you enjoyed a meal that featured one cup each of lentils, brown rice, broccoli, and winter squash topped with some fresh or dried herbs, you'd reach your 30 gram fiber goal.

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