Fiber and Systemic Inflammation

mpj0433185000011High dietary fiber intake helps prevent constipation, diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and perhaps colon polyps.

Soluble fiber helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and it reduces LDL cholesterol levels, thereby reducing risks of coronary heart disease.

An article in the journal Nutrition suggests how fiber may have beneficial effects in atherosclerosis (the cause of heart attacks and strokes), type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.  These conditions are felt to be related to underlying systemic inflammation.

Systemic inflammation can be judged by blood levels of inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha-receptor-2, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Researchers looked at 1,958 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, comparing inflammatory marker levels with dietary fiber intake.  They found that high fiber intake was associated with significantly lower levels of inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha-receptor-2.  This association was true individually for total fiber, insoluble fiber, and soluble fiber.  The researchers found no association with C reactive protein.

Bottom line?

High intake of dietary fiber seems to reduce chronic inflammation, which may, in part, explain the observed clinical benefits of fiber.

Average adult fiber intake in the U.S. is 12 to 15 grams daily.  Expert nutrition panels and the American Heart Association recommend 25 to 30 grams daily from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Nutritionist Monica Reinagel at has reviewed soluble vs insoluble fiber and good sources of soluble fiber:  oranges, apples, carrots, oats and oat bran, psyllium husk, nuts, legumes, and flaxseed.  Click the link for good sources of insoluble fiber.

Rest assured that the Mediterranean diet is naturally high in fiber.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Ma, Yensheng, et al.  Association between dietary fiber and markers of systemic inflammation in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational StudyNutrition, 24 (2008): 941-949.


Filed under Fiber

5 responses to “Fiber and Systemic Inflammation

  1. As someone who had digestive problems most of my life, I can say with confidence that fiber (especially soluble fiber) also helps tremendously with the discomfort than can be associated with the problems you mention. I feel like a new person since I started eating whole grains–it was years ago and the problems I’d had since childhood never returned.

    • I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one in favor of whole grains. [I know we’re really in the majority.] Maybe I read too many “paleo diet” and low-carb blogs that disparage whole grains.

      This reminds me that “gluten-free” seems to be replacing “detox” as the latest weight-loss fad. E.g. Elizabeth Hasselbach’s (sp?) new book.

  2. Hi Steve!

    Your new blog design looks great! The information, of course, has always been great!

  3. Hi Steve!

    Your new blog design looks great!

    Your information of course, has always been, and continues to be great!