Winston Churchill once said, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on.”
That quip certainly reminds me of a new, major meta-analysis about the supposed “benefits” of dietary fiber published in The Lancet.
As I’ve always warned, the story about fiber is far more complicated than most people — or researchers — understand.
So, today, let’s take a look at the new study’s findings to figure out the real truth about the benefits of eating fiber…
Big Food manufacturers spin study results to their favor
For the new study, researchers looked at data about dietary fiber intake from observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years.
Specifically, they found that men and women who ate at least 25 to 29 grams of fiber a day had a 15 to 30 percent decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular-related mortality compared to people who ate the least fiber. They also had lower incidences of coronary heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and colo-rectal cancer.
Of course, the processed food industry is very excited about this study because they feel they can now unabashedly promote their “high fiber” processed grain products.
But buyer, beware…
Yes, processed grains like cereals and sliced breads do contain some fiber. Usually because manufacturers add it in artificially.
But these processed products also contain all sorts of other unhealthy ingredients — especially white flour and sugar — which can dramatically increase your risk of developing Type II diabetes and cancer.
Plus, as I learned 30 years ago, eating too much of the wrong kinds of fiber can actually increase the risk of colon cancer. It essentially acts as an irritant in the GI tract, causing a proliferation of precancerous cells.
So, I advise you to opt only for all-natural, organic whole foods with 100 percent whole grains — like steel-cut oats, rye, and wheat. And even then, exercise caution. And only eat them in moderation, as part of a balanced diet.
Ideal sources of fiber go beyond grains
In fact, instead of focusing so single-mindedly on your fiber intake, I suggest simply aiming to eat six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
This will provide your body with all the fiber you need. Plus, you won’t ever have to stress about counting grams of fiber. I promise you, it’s a whole lot easier — and healthier!
Now, I realize six to eight servings of produce daily may sound like a lot… but it really isn’t.
Especially when you consider just one measuring cup full of a fruit or vegetable counts as two servings. (That’s the equivalent of one medium-sized apple!)
Of course, there are two other important reasons why you should aim to get your fiber from fruits and vegetables…
For one, the fiber in fruits and vegetables has what I’ve come to call “biome-availability.” Which means it’s a non-digestible, “resistant starch” that stays right in the GI tract, supporting your microbiome. (The microbiome is the environment where billions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive. Plus, emerging science shows that a healthy microbiome supports your brain health, your immune system, and protects against chronic disease.)
Second, by getting your fiber from fruits and vegetables, you also absorb a variety of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. Including optimal amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals.
In fact, I strongly suspect the positive results from this new study stem from people getting the added nutrition found in fruits and vegetables — not grains. Indeed, a wealth of research connects the nutrients found in fresh produce with significant reductions in cancer and heart disease risk.
In his famous poem written the year before his death, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
That line rather reminds me of the embattled processed food industry — as it tries to grasp for straws and defend its unhealthy, carb-laden products with “added fiber.”
That line also speaks to the World Health Organization (WHO), which commissioned this study. In my view, the WHO (part of the United Nations) is so desperate to remain relevant in 2019 that it’s taken to spreading more medical myths…
All in all, I suggest you take the results from this “landmark” study with a major grain of salt.
Your fool-proof, three-step guide to getting enough fiber
Instead, remember these three, simple takeaways:
- Not all fiber is healthy — especially when it comes from processed foods with added fiber.
- Instead of focusing so much on fiber intake, simply strive to eat six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Fruits and vegetables also have good levels of other healthy nutrients, in addition to fiber.
In the end, just keep up with a delicious Mediterranean-style diet, filled with plenty of full-fat dairy (like cheese and yogurt), meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. And use spices liberally. (Remember — a cook’s spices are the natural practitioners’ herbal remedies.) And enjoy alcohol in moderation.
You can learn more about what you should — and shouldn’t — eat in the January 2019 Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“Your ultimate guide to eating right in 2019 — and beyond”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, all it takes is just one quick click.
“Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.” The Lancet 2019; 393(10170):434-445. doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31809-9