Coronary heart disease and the potential benefits of dietary fiber.




Archives of Internal Medicine

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Fiber
Professional Data: Fiber


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. Soluble fiber mixes with water, turning into a gel-like substance in the process as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. 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. Examples of insoluble fibers are cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignins.

A recently published study conducted on 9,776 adults investigated the relationship between coronary heart disease (CHD) and dietary fiber intake. All participants were cardiovascular disease (CVD) free at the initiation of this study. After19 years of follow-up, there were 1,843 cases of CHD and 3,762 cases of CVD. Those with a lower intake of dietary fiber (average 5.9 g daily) had a higher risk of CVD and CHD when compared to those who consumed and average of 20.7 g a day. After further investigation, the researchers found that water-soluble fiber was particularly associated with a decreased risk of these diseases.1


1. Bazzano LA, et al. Dietary Fiber Intake and Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in US Men and Women. Arch Int Med. Sept 8 2003;163(16):1897-1904.