American Heart Association media advisory: long-term intake of dietary fiber and decreased risk of coronary heart disease among women

June 01, 1999

A paper scheduled for publication in the June 2 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says that eating a diet high in fiber, specifically cereal fiber, can help reduce a woman's risk of heart attack.

"Eating cereal is a great way to get extra fiber, but it needs to be done in combination with other heart-healthy habits," says Alice H. Lichtenstein, D.Sc., member of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston. "Those women that ate the highest amounts of fiber also smoked less, exercised more and ate more fruits and vegetables. They were more likely to eat foods high in vitamin E, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene and magnesium, and lower in saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Therefore, people who consume higher-than-average amounts of fiber tend to lead heart-healthy lives in general. And if they are eating cereal for breakfast, it is less likely they are eating foods like bacon and eggs, which are high in saturated fat and cholesterol."

The paper reaffirms the heart-healthy dietary guidelines of the American Heart Association, according to Lichtenstein. "Increasing dietary fiber is just one more component of a healthy dietary regimen that can help reduce your risk for heart disease, as well as other diseases such as cancer and diabetes." The AHA recommends that individuals consume both soluble fiber, found in foods such as oatmeal, oat bran, rice bran, beans, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apples, as well as insoluble fiber found in whole wheat breads and cereals, brown rice and many fruits and vegetables. Added dietary fiber is not only good for the digestive system, but also can help lower levels of blood cholesterol provided that the diet is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

The paper being published in JAMA looked at 68,782 women over a period of 10 years as part of the Nurses' Health Study. After controlling for other influences of heart disease risk such as age, diet, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, researchers found that the women who consumed the highest amounts of fiber per day (median of 22.9 grams daily) had a 23 percent reduced risk of heart disease compared to women consuming less than 12 grams per day. Researchers also found that only the fiber found in cereal was associated with the reduced risk of heart disease.
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American Heart Association

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