April 19, 2011

How Much Fiber Is Enough?

I do have to wonder when the different medical groups are going to become unified in their recommendations for daily dietary fiber intake. I see different ranges quite often. One group orders 31 grams of fiber for everyone, another claims that women only need 25 grams, and men need 38 grams of daily dietary fiber. Most seem to recommend within this range, but I have seen more precise suggestions based on age and other factors.

Do we need standardization? It would seem wise as too many medical groups recommend on one number fits all. They do not specify what age range they are talking about or even if there are other factors involved in the determination. I am not sure whose recommendation to use. People may have their own opinion, but I find the best table for dietary fiber is this table by the World Health Organization and you can find it here. You may wish to bookmark it for future reference. It does account for children and the table is about one third down the page.

The recommendation (2nd page) from the Mayo Clinic does not account for children for which I fault the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, and Mayo Clinic for using the IOM table which does not take into consideration fiber levels for children. The IOM does say that age 50 and younger for women the amount of daily dietary fiber should be 25 grams and for women age 51 and older the need drops to 21 grams. For men age 50 and younger the amount of daily dietary fiber should be 38 grams and for men age 51 and older the need decreases to 30 grams.

Dietary fiber is sometimes referred to as bulk or roughage. Dietary fiber is found in plants, fruits, vegetables, and grains plus part of a heart-healthy diet. It adds bulk and the full feeling quicker which helps control weight, aids digestion and makes bowel movements easier.

Dietary fiber is of two types – soluble and insoluble.  Insoluble fiber facilitates easier movement through you digestive system and increases stool bulk. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material. This helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. The amount of each type of fiber varies by plant foods. This is why everyone recommends eating a wide variety of high fiber foods.

Benefits of a proper level of fiber in your diet are many and this is the reason for making this known over and over to people. Of course, the correct amount of fiber in your diet makes bowel movement easier and can help with preventing loose stools and for some people it may provide assistance from irritable bowel syndrome. Other benefits of a proper fiber diet is that it may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids, and possibly other colon diseases.

I was intending to have a two part series, but upon closer reading of the study I had in mind, I decided to let you read it here. I do not like studies that try to factualize estimated values of cardiovascular risks and have a cardiologist state that the “results of this study make a lot of sense”. This to me just invalidates the purpose of studies and indicates that what they were after did not come to be fact. It indicates that the study was inconclusive.

You need to read this just to see an example of what lengths they will go to to justify a poor study.

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