Fiber is receiving more and more attention as a tool to manage blood sugar levels and weight, for diabetics as well as healthy individuals. But how does fiber help?
All fibers can slow the absorption of sugar and fat from food, and therefore help prevent post-prandial (post-meal) spikes in blood sugar and blood fat, possibly reducing the inflammatory response to food. Fiber can also prevent the absorption of some fat and cholesterol completely, thereby lowering blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber appear to have beneficial effects on factors associated with diabetes. Soluble fiber may have a greater impact on reducing postprandial glucose response and improving certain blood lipids. However, research shows that total dietary fiber consumption contributes to a number of unexpected metabolic effects including improved insulin sensitivity, secretion of certain gut hormones, and effects on various metabolic and inflammatory markers associated with metabolic syndrome (1).
In one randomized, crossover study, 13 participants with type 2 diabetes mellitus were assigned to follow two diets, each for six weeks: a moderate 24g fiber diet as recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and a high 50g fiber diet. Both diets had the same calories and the same ratio of protein/carbohydrate/fat. The results: during the sixth week of the high-fiber diet (compared to the sixth week of the ADA diet) mean daily pre-prandial (pre-meal) glucose levels and mean daily urinary glucose excretion were significantly lower. The high-fiber diet lowered the 24-hour blood glucose and insulin concentrations by 10% and 12%, respectively, lowered total cholesterol by 6.7%, triglycerides 10.2%, and VLDL (very-low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol by 12.5%. Conclusion…”A high intake of dietary fiber, particularly of the soluble type, above the level recommended by the ADA, improves glycemic control, decreases hyperinsulinemia, and lowers plasma lipid concentrations in patients with type 2 diabetes (2).”
A meta-analysis was conducted of 15 randomized studies published from 1980 to 2010 that involved increasing dietary fiber intake as an intervention, evaluated HbA1c and/or fasting blood glucose as an outcome, and used known type 2 diabetics as participants. They concluded, “An intervention involving fiber supplementation for type 2 diabetes mellitus can reduce fasting blood glucose and HbA1c. This suggests that increasing dietary fiber in the diet of patients with type-2 diabetes is beneficial and should be encouraged as a disease management strategy (3).”
Weight loss is often an important component of diabetic management and many studies have shown increased post-meal satiety or decreased subsequent hunger when subjects consume high fiber diets (1). The average value for published studies indicate that consuming an additional 14g of fiber daily for more than 2 days is associated with a 10% decrease in calorie intake and weight loss of 4.2 lbs. over 3.8 months, with obese individuals showing an even greater effect (4). (see more here How Can a Fiber Shake Help You Lose Weight? here Fiber & Satiety and here Weight Loss Fiber)
Diabetics are at increased risk high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and blood lipids, stroke, gastric disorders and some cancers. High fiber diets appear to have positive effects on many of these other factors as well. (See more here Dietary and Your Health and here Dietary Fiber Aids Type 2 Diabetes and Weight Loss)
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that adults eat 14g of dietary fiber per 1000 calories eaten in the diet, which for most of us, translates to 21-28 grams of fiber per day. Many health experts believe that even more is better, up to 50g daily. BarnDad’s Fiber Dx makes it easy to get all the health benefits of fiber in 3 delicious flavors that can be mixed with your favorite non-carbonated beverage, or baked into your favorite recipe. Try our original unflavored, or our German Chocolate Cake, Cinnamon Bun and Strawberry Cream. Are you counting your fiber?
(1) “Metabolic Effects of Dietary Fiber Consumption and Prevention of Diabetes1.” J. Nutr. 138: 439–442, 2008
(2) “Beneficial Effects of High Dietary Fiber Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” N Engl J Med 2000;342:1392-8
(3) “Dietary Fiber for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis.” J. Am Board Fam Med. 2012; 25:16–23
(4) “Dietary Fiber and Weight Regulation.” Nutrition Reviews, May 2001. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2001.tb07001.x/abstract
(5) Diabetes Action: Research and Education Foundation, Healthy Living Articles, http://www.diabetesaction.org/site/PageNavigator/Complementary%20Corner/complementary_4_07