Another reason to be regular: Fibre can prevent strokes, says study
Published Thursday, March 28, 2013 4:04PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:26PM EDT
You’ve heard it before: we all need to eat more fibre; it’s good for your heart, keeps you “regular“ and could reduce your risk for colorectal cancer.
Now, a new study finds that upping your fibre intake could also decrease your risk of having a first-time stroke.
The study reviewed eight previous fibre and stroke studies and found that people who eat a high-fibre diet tend to have a much lower risk of stroke than people who eat a low-fibre diet.
In fact, every seven-gram increase in total daily fibre intake was associated with a seven per cent decrease in stroke risk, the study found.
The results appear in the journal Stroke, published by the American Heart Association.
Healthy adults need a lot fibre in their diets. Health Canada urges Canadians to get between 21 and 38 grams of fibre a day, depending on their gender. But surveys show that most of us eat only about 14 grams a day.
But if everyone could raise their fibre intake by a few grams a day, it would go a long way to reducing the 14,000 deaths that result from stroke every year, as well as prevent some of the 50,000 strokes that disable Canadians every year, the authors of this study say.
“Anything we can do to bring those numbers down is beneficial,” says study author Dr. Victoria Burley, from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds in the U.K. “So eating a healthy diet with lots of fibre-rich foods is one thing that can help to prevent stroke risk in later life.”
It’s not known precisely why fibre might help prevent stroke. Previous research has shown that it can help reduce blood levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol, as well as lower blood pressure.
Burley says it might also be beneficial because fibre is filling.
“It could be working because it stops people from putting on weight. If you have a lot of fibre-rich foods, they tend to be lower in calories and so it is a bit harder to put on weight if you eat like that through your lifetime.”
Dr. David Spence from the Stroke Prevention & Atherosclerosis Research Centre at Robarts Research Institute in London, Ont. says those who eat high-fibre diets tend to eat less saturated, animal fats, which have been shown to raise the risk of stroke.
“It’s not just that fibre is good. If you are eating a high fibre, it’s by default lower in bad stuff,” he tells CTV News. “With fibre, when it comes from whole grains, you are also getting other beneficial substances, like phytoestrogens. “
The researchers say Canadians could meet their fibre targets if they ate more whole grains and aimed for eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Other good sources of fibre include beans, lentils and bran cereals.
“Rather than thinking of having more food, we should think about replacing what we eat. So instead of white toast for breakfast, make sure that toast is whole wheat or whole grain. That for instance might give you four to five grams of that seven extra grams of fibre you need. Add in a couple of extra portions of fruit or veg and you have hit that seven grams a day target,” says Burley.
“So it is really not that hard. We just have to pay attention to the type of food that we are eating and swapping those lower fibre options with higher fibre ones.”
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada. In addition to following a healthy diet, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends being physically active and quitting smoking to help prevent stroke and other blood vessel diseases.
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip