Do you know that fibre plays a very important role in your diet and your weight?Observational studies show that obesity is less frequent in developing countries where there is high fibre consumption (1). In multi-center population based cohort study carried out over 10 years examining 2909 young individuals, the researchers reported an inverse relationship between total fibre intake, plasma insulin concentrations and body weight gain suggesting that fibre may play an important role in the prevention of insulin resistance and obesity (2). The idea is that fibre slows down digestion by delaying the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full for longer which in turns helps control your weight. This slower stomach emptying also affects blood sugar levels and thus has a positive effect in insulin sensitivity and prevention of Type II Diabetes.
According to UK's National Health Survey, average fibre consumption is a about 14g/day when the target should at least be 18g/day. This signifies that most people do not consume enough fibre in their daily diet.
So how can you increase your fibre intake? It is important to have more knowledge on what foods contain fibres and adding 'functional fibres' to your drinks and food (eg, orange juice, porridge etc) which is really fibres extracted from plants or animals and this is one of the most convenient way to boost your fibre content.
For natural fibres, we have soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibres are found in oatmeal, lentils, apples, oranges, blueberries, nuts, flaxseeds, celery, carrots etc. These fibres draw in water and forms a gel after consumption. For insoluble fibres, they are found in whole wheat, seeds, nuts, barley, broccoli, raisins, grapes, tomatoes, onions etc. these fibres do not dissolve in water and passes through your gastrointestinal tract pretty intact and speeds up the passage of food and waste through your gut. They also provide a laxative effect and helps prevent constipation.
1: Babio N, Balanza R, Basulto J, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. Dietary fibre: influence on body weight, glycemic control and plasma cholesterol profile. Nutr Hosp. 2010 May-Jun;25(3):327-40. Review. PubMed PMID: 20593113.
2. Ludwig DS, Pereira MA, Kroenke CH, Hilner JE, Van Horn L, Slattery ML, Jacobs DR Jr. Dietary fiber, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease risk factors in young adults. JAMA 1999; 282: 1539-46
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research