New study recommends a daily maximum for dietary fiber intake

Rolled oats

British doctors commenting on the Otago research in an accompanying Lancet article hailed it as a significant piece of research

The study, which will make for hard reading for food manufacturers making low-carb products, said that fibre in "good" carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, cereal, pasta and oats has a protective effect.

Commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), the study aimed to develop new recommendations for optimal daily fibre intake to see what types of carbohydrates provide the best protection against things such as NCDs and weight gain. "This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases", said Jim Mann, a professor at the University of Otago, New Zealand who co-led the research.

This includes a decrease of up to 30pc in all-cause and cardiovascular-related mortality when comparing people who eat the highest amount of fibre to those who eat the least.

For every 8 gram increase in fibre eaten a day, total deaths and incidences of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer fell by 5 to 27 per cent, the study said.

While the consumption of 25-29g of fibre per day was adequate, the findings suggest that a higher daily intake could offer even greater protection.

In 2015, the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommended an increase in dietary fibre intake to 30 g per day. But it adds that for people with an iron deficiency, high levels of whole grains can further reduce iron levels.

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Protection against stroke and breast cancer also rose. Even worse, the average adult in the U.S. consumes only 15 grams of fibre per day.

Most people worldwide consume less than 20g of dietary fibre per day. These studies involved initially healthy participants, so the findings can not be applied to those with existing chronic diseases.

The WHO defines an unhealthy diet as one of the major risk factors for a range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and other conditions linked to obesity.

Foods with high fiber content include fresh, whole fruits, brown rice and breads made from whole grains, raw vegetables, and beans and legumes. Fitness enthusiasts and health conscious people must note that foods with a low glycaemic index or low glycaemic load may also contain added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.

Prof Mann said: "The health benefits of fibre are supported by over 100 years of research into its chemistry, physical properties, physiology and effects on metabolism". This cholesterol-lowering type of fibre is found in fruits, vegetables and grains such as oats and barley. They also favorably influence the lipid as well as glucose levels.

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