Boost fibre to keep up heart health

We often think of fibre only in connection with “keeping regular”—but there’s much more to it that. Fibre has a lot to do with what goes on in the top halves of our bodies as well!

A recent study at the University of Kentucky and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center looked at the effects of adding psyllium, an excellent source of fibre, to the diets of people with high cholesterol. Men and women participants were asked to first follow the American Heart Association “Step 1 Diet” for eight weeks. Then, they were given psyllium or a placebo twice daily for 26 weeks. The results showed that the participants taking psyllium had 4.7% to 6.7% lower LDL (bad) cholesterol concentrations than the placebo group. Psyllium appears to reduce the absorption of cholesterol by the colon. It may also increase the excretion of bile acid and cholesterol from the liver. Researchers concluded that psyllium, in addition to dietary changes, was beneficial for people with high cholesterol.

But what about other heart problems—does fibre have a role in overall cardiovascular health? At the Department of Medicine at the University of Western Australia, patients with high blood pressure were put on a low-protein and fibre diet for four weeks. Then, still on this diet, they were given either a placebo, soy protein, psyllium, or soy protein and psyllium for another eight weeks. Regardless of age, gender or eating habits, the results showed that adding protein and fibre helped lower high blood pressure. Researchers say “these test findings have important implications for the prevention and management of hypertension.”

Sources: Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Jun;71(6):1433-8; Hypertension 2001 Oct;38(4):821-6