In the news
The fiber factor: more good news.
A study published a few days ago in the journal Lancet supports what we have been preaching for years: a high-fiber diet lowers the risk of several diseases and it has no side effects.
This is a meta-analysis that reaches back four decades and includes more than 200 research studies. Eating 25 to 29 or more grams per day of fiber-containing foods (whole grain bread and cereals, legumes, fruit) significantly increases lifespan by lowering the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
When you consider that it was only about a century ago that the average American ate 50 to 100 grams of fiber a day, the researchers’ idea of 29 grams being “high fiber” seems a little incongruous. Still, even that small (in my opinion) amount makes a difference.
Soluble fiber or insoluble – it really doesn’t matter. A diet that is high in plant foods and whole grains provides both. Yet there’s more to the fiber story. It helps to lower cholesterol, perhaps by binding to bile acids. By absorbing water fiber increases the bulk of the intestinal contents and it’s more than just keeping you regular and avoiding constipation, the bane of senior citizens. Regularity lowers the chances that you will develop diverticulosis, tiny outpouchings of the large intestine that sometimes progress to diverticulitis, inflammation that is always painful and that sometimes leads to perforation. If that’s not enough to motivate you to getting more fiber in your diet, consider that constipation leads to hemorrhoids. As I once heard a golfing buddy say, “Happiness is never having to use Preparation H.”
Avoiding dementia: cholesterol
The arguments over cholesterol never seem to end. There are at least nine different forms of cholesterol and even taken together they are only part of the heart disease/stroke picture. However, there is a clear and consistent association of a high LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol – the bad kind – and both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular (involving damage to blood vessels) dementia. HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol – the good kind – protects us from both forms of dementia.
Too bad it’s not really that simple! Persons with high LDL cholesterol are more likely to be obese and diabetic, two conditions that are also related to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Those who exercise regularly and with moderate intensity – that means working up a sweat – not only have a higher HDL but are much less likely to be obese and diabetic.
Although statin drugs do lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease they are not tolerated well by many people.
It’s important to recognize that eating cholesterol does not raise your blood cholesterol level. Your liver, where cholesterol is manufactured, has a feedback system that reduces cholesterol when more is present in the diet. So go ahead and enjoy an egg or two most days of the week! BUT!!! It’s those egg-helpers like bacon, ham, sausage, butter, hash browns, etc. with their saturated fat that raise cholesterol. Try a veggie omelet instead but it’s OK to have some of that other stuff now and then.
What you can do before taking a prescription drug:
Eat more oats, barley, legumes, avocados, olive oil, fish (or an omega-3 supplement).
Take Metamucil several times a week.
Exercise (I’ll be that you knew I would say that!) That means about one hour four days a week, hard enough to sweat, including both aerobic (brisk walking or something similar) and resistance (weights, machines, elastic bands).