Fiber To Prevent Weight Gain

Dr. Tim Harlan, aka Dr. Gourmet, explains the science behind the push to increase your fibrous intake.

Dr. Tim Harlan aka Dr. Gourmet

Special for HealthKey.com

June 30, 2010


There's a lot of talk about fiber these days. You see it all over food packages and it might help you feel better about the selections that you are making at the grocery store. But why?

Well there's clear evidence that a high fiber diet can help prevent some cancers and reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes. People with high cholesterol can help improve their cholesterol profile by getting more fiber in their diet. At the same time all of these conditions are associated with being overweight; could getting more fiber in your diet actually help you avoid gaining weight? And if so, does it matter whether your fiber intake is from soluble fiber (from fruits, barley and oats) or insoluble fiber (whole grains like whole wheat grains and cereal grains such as rice or seeds)?

Study Suggests Fiber Aids Weight Loss

An international team of scientists utilized data gathered from a study performed in five European countries, including about 90,000 people and lasting almost fifteen years. At the beginning and end of the study, each participant was weighed, their height recorded and their waist measurements taken. In addition, at the start of the study the participants filled out a detailed food questionnaire to assess their regular diet.

The researchers then totaled the amount of fiber each subject consumed from fruits and vegetables or from whole grains. They then compared those totals to the changes in each person's weight and waist circumference from the beginning and at the end of the study.

Insoluble Fiber Wins

Interestingly, they found that those participants who ate more than 10 grams per day of fiber from all sources actually lost a small amount of weight, on average, over the course of the study. ("Small" meaning less than one-tenth of a pound per year.) Similarly, their waist measurements also decreased by a very small amount (about 1 millimeter per year).

But what's really fascinating is that when the researchers further looked at what types of fiber people were eating, they saw that those consuming their 10 grams of fiber from cereal grains (including foods such as rice, pasta, breads and breakfast cereals) were least likely to gain weight or waist circumference. Those whose 10 grams of fiber per day was primarily from fruits, oats and vegetables higher in soluble fiber gained about the same amount of weight and waist circumference as those who actually ate the least fiber.

Fiber = Filling

The results from this study suggest that eating more insoluble fiber (from cereals and whole grains) than soluble fiber (fruits and some vegetables) may help you avoid weight gain over time. There have been other studies that suggest that if you're trying to lose weight, a higher fiber diet can help increase the amount of weight you lose over a diet with the same amount of calories but less fiber.

What we do know is that higher fiber foods help you feel more satisfied and that people who are constantly hungry don't get enough fiber from any source. While eating foods high in insoluble fiber might help your weight, getting more fiber—of any kind—is key. And we know that fruits and veggies offer other benefits including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. So, choose whole grains in your recipes like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, bran flakes, wild rice whenever you can, and snack on fruits and vegetables.

Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Dr. Gourmet

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