Fiber In Diet Not Enough; American Heart Association Calling For Higher Intake To Fight Heart Disease

June 16, 1997

DALLAS, June 17 - Americans are getting about half as much fiber in the diet as they need, according to a new report from the American Heart Association that appears today in its journal Circulation Eating enough fiber-rich foods is part of a diet to lower blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, says Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D., author of the article.

The recommended total dietary intake is 25 to 30 grams per day from foods, not supplements, to ensure nutrient adequacy, says Van Horn, member of the Association's volunteer Nutrition Committee, which generated the report. This can be achieved by eating a variety of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits that provide fiber and many other important vitamins and minerals.

"Fiber is not a substitute for a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet," says Van Horn. "It is a complement to it. Simply avoiding fat does not guarantee a good diet or adequate fiber intake. Fortunately there are options. Most of us can find the things we need on a daily basis. The American diet is consistently inadequate in fiber, she notes.

Low fat diets that regularly include oats, beans, pectin-containing fresh fruits and other fiber-rich foods can reduce total blood cholesterol by 10 to 15 percent. These foods act in at least two beneficial ways - reducing absorption of fat in the diet and altering the way cholesterol is produced by the body.

By reducing their blood levels of cholesterol, individuals decrease their risk for heart disease and stroke.

Another benefit of high fiber intake seems to be better weight control. Persons who eat adequate amounts of bulky fiber-rich foods "simply don't have room" for as much fat as many Americans now consume, she says

The Circulation article is aimed at alerting medical professionals about the needs for addressing fiber intake as well the needs for limited consumption of fat. "By concentrating on some of these inexpensive foods a lot of us usually ignore or avoid - like the lowly bean - we could vastly improve our nutritional health and save money," she notes. "Many of these foods have the added benefit of being high in complex carbohydrates, vegetable protein and antioxidants as well as being free of saturated fat and generally low in calories."

Some High Fiber Foods

Media advisory: Dr. Van Horn can be reached by calling (312) 908-8938. Reporters may call (214) 706-1173 for a copy of the statement. (Please do not publish telephone number.)

American Heart Association

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