Woman's risk of heart attack may be reduced by high fiber diet.




Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Fiber Cardiovascular Disease
Professional Data: Fiber Cardiovascular Disease


Dietary fiber is a general term that refers to a wide variety of compounds found in plants that are resistant to the digestive enzymes produced by humans. Because dietary fiber is resistant to digestive enzymes, it is not broken down or absorbed, which means it does not provide calories or energy to the body. In general, dietary fibers are various forms of complex carbohydrates that have differing abilities to swell by absorbing water into their structural matrix.

There are two types of fibers, soluble and insoluble. Fibers that can actually dissolve in water, such as pectin, gums, and psyllium, are referred to as soluble fiber. Foods that are rich in soluble fiber include apples, citrus fruits, pears, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, squash, legumes, and grains such as barley, oats, oat bran and oatmeal. Insoluble fibers or roughage cannot dissolve in water but can absorb water. This causes them to swell, making them good bulking agents, which speeds up transit time and improves elimination. Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole-wheat breads, wheat cereals, wheat bran, rye, rice, barley, most other grains, potatoes, flaxseeds, and vegetables such as cabbage, beets, and carrots.

A recent study investigated whether or not a high fiber diet could reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or heart attacks in women. In 1993, the dietary intake of fiber was calculated in 39,876 female health professionals with no prior history of CVD or cancer. In the next 6 years, these women were monitored for occurrence of heart attack, stroke, and CVD fatalities, among others. Over this period of time, 570 cases of CVD were recorded. These results showed that there was an inverse relationship between CVD and high fiber intake, after being adjusted for age and treatment status. The results were consistent among soluble and insoluble fiber. High fiber intake, averaging 26.3 grams daily, was associated with a significant reduction in CVD and heart attack risk, compared to those with an intake of 12.5 grams a day. After a second adjustment for CVD risk factors, such as smoking, the inverse relation was no longer statistically considerable. The authors recommended increasing the ingestion of fiber as a defensive measure against CVD.1


1. Liu S, et al. A prospective study of dietary fiber intake and risk of cardiovascular disease among women. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Jan 2002;39:49-56, 57-58.