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Multiple studies find fiber improves cardiovascular health

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Millions of Americans each year receive unhealthy cholesterol test results. The nation is currently suffering from an epidemic of poor heart health. However, many people may be able to turn around their cardiovascular health simply by adding more fiber to their diets. Several studies have shown that this nutrient can play an important role in improving cholesterol levels and limiting heart disease risk.

Currently the condition ranks as the number one killer in the U.S. Heart disease claimed more lives in 2006 than the next two leading causes of death - cancer and stroke - combined, according the American Heart Association. Experts say that this underscores the need for preventative measures that help individuals lower their cholesterol and improve heart health.

Fiber is increasingly emerging as one of the top contenders to fill this role. Several recent studies have confirmed its cardiovascular benefits and researchers say that it should become a staple for nearly anyone who needs to lower their risk of heart disease.

For example, a new study from researchers at Northwestern University found that consuming fiber during early adulthood significantly lowers the risk of developing heart disease later in life. The researchers said that their findings make sense, as previous investigations showed that the nutrient can improve cholesterol test scores and shrink waistlines, which are two contributing factors to heart disease.

For the study , the researchers reviewed the findings of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which asked participants about their previous diet and current health. The study showed that individuals between ages 20 and 59 who consumed the most fiber were the least likely to get heart disease. There was no apparent benefit for those who started eating fiber after age 60.

"Younger and middle-aged adults with the highest fiber intake, compared to those with the lowest fiber intake, showed a statistically significant lower lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease," said Hongyan Ning, who led the investigation. "The study suggests that starting a high-fiber diet now may help improve your long-term risk."

Another recent investigation, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that increased fiber consumption reduce the risk of death from a number of causes, including heart disease.

After collecting data from more than 390,000 men and women between 1995 and 1996, researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that those who consumed the highest levels of fiber had the lowest risk of death during the study period. Those who got between 25 and 29 grams per day were 22 percent less likely to die.

Additionally, the researchers found that participants who consumed the highest levels were significantly less likely to develop heart disease, infection and respiratory disease.

The researchers said that their findings add compelling evidence to the growing data suggesting the cholesterol-lowering benefits of fiber. They said that it is more important than ever for individuals to follow dietary recommendations for fiber consumption.

Most recommendations for fiber intake range depending on the source. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which come from the federal government, suggest consuming 14 grams per 1,000 calories. However, the American Heart Association says that individuals should be getting 25 grams or more each day.

Based on this evidence, it is clear that higher levels of fiber may help improve cholesterol test scores. However, due to the fact that most people do not meet daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, few are getting enough of the nutrient. Increasing the amount of fiber in their daily diets may be a simple way for Americans to drastically improve their cardiovascular health.

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