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May 08, 2013

Fiber Reduces Stroke Risk

Study shows increasing dietary fiber intake could drastically reduce risk for stroke.

Fiber may not be the sexiest topic when it comes to our health, but it’s key to a balanced diet. Fiber—found primarily in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes—aids in digestion and boasts a number of heart-health benefits, like lowering cholesterol, controlling blood sugar levels and aiding in weight control. Fiber can also reduce risk for heart disease—the leading cause of death in the United States—and, according to a recent study, greatly reduce risk of stroke.

This study was conducted by experts from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, who analyzed results from eight different research studies that included close to 500,000 participants. Each of these studies collected information on fiber consumption from participants and followed subjects for anywhere between eight to 19 years. Following analysis, researchers found that stroke risk fell by 7% for every 7-gram increase in fiber consumption reported each day, and individuals consuming the greatest amount of fiber had the lowest risk for stroke. Yet on average, most individuals did not meet recommendations for fiber consumption. Guidelines recommend that women get 25 grams and men get 38 grams of fiber each day, yet this study showed that on average, women get 13 grams and men get 17 grams per day.

The good news? Increasing fiber intake is easier than you may think. You can find at least 7 grams of fiber in just a cup of raspberries, two pieces of whole wheat bread, or half a cup of most beans. And experts say that based on study findings, even a 2- or 3-gram increase of fiber intake each day could help lower stroke risk.

Although it’s unclear exactly how fiber reduces stroke risk, experts are encouraged by findings. Stroke is extremely common in our society and most people have at least one risk factor for stroke, like high blood pressurehigh cholesterol or simply being overweight. If increasing fiber intake can help lower our risk for stroke, it’s one of the easiest ways that we can help improve our heart health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is fiber?
  • Dietary fiber is found primarily in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and includes all parts of plant foods that our bodies can’t digest or absorb. Since our body can’t break down fiber or absorb it, fiber passes through the stomach, intestine and out of our body. Fiber has been shown to help lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar control, aid in weight control and lower cardiovascular risk.
  • How much fiber do I need for a healthy heart?
  • The daily adequate intake amount for fiber has been calculated by the Institute of Medicine. Men 19 and older should strive for 38 grams a day and women 19 and older should aim for 25 grams a day. For more information, see this guideline on getting enough fiber.


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