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Invited Commentary
June 27, 2011

Do the Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber Extend Beyond Cardiovascular Disease?Comment on “Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study”

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Nutrition (Drs de Koning and Hu) and Epidemiology (Dr Hu), Harvard School of Public Health Channing Laboratory, and Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School (Dr Hu), Boston, Massachusetts.

Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(12):1069-1070. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.19

Dietary fiber is important in digestion, and its relationship with chronic disease has been a topic of great interest for many years. Fiber consists of undigestible plant carbohydrates in both soluble and insoluble forms.1 Soluble fiber (eg, fruit pectin) dissolves in water to form a gel, whereas insoluble fiber (eg, cellulose from wheat bran) does not. Both increase stomach distension, which increases satiety, and slow nutrient absorption.1 Soluble, and to a lesser extent insoluble, fiber is fermented by intestinal bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids, which affect hepatic insulin sensitivity and lipid synthesis.1 The main function of insoluble fiber is to increase fecal bulk.1 Because these changes are thought to protect against the development of chronic diseases, a fiber-rich diet similar to that of early man is probably healthier than current Western-type diets.1

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