Fibre-rich diet ‘raises your chance of a long and healthy life’

    10 June 2016

    People who have a fibre-rich diet have a better chance of ageing successfully, according to a study by scientists at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

    Researchers looked at data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, which followed 1,600 adults aged 50 or older over 10 years.

    They found that subjects with the highest fibre intake had an 80 per cent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over the study period.

    ‘Successful’ ageing was defined as an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases including cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

    Lead author Professor Bamini Gopinath, of the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, said: ‘Out of all the variables that we looked at, fibre intake — which is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest — had the strongest influence.

    ‘Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fibre or total fibre actually had an almost 80 per cent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability.’

    The research, which analysed the carbohydrate intake of the subjects, was published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

    Instant analysis
    In this prospective cohort study a greater consumption of foods with higher glycemic index and load appears to correlate with a higher risk of death. Higher fibre intake, which correlates with a greater consumption of fruit and grains, was associated with both more successful ageing but also lower death rates over the 10-year study period.

    Strengths of the study include its prospective nature and the follow-up period. Correlation, not causation, are suggested by the findings; however, no exploration has been done in terms of ascertaining if the higher fibre consumption was itself a marker for a healthier lifestyle overall and hence improved health and ageing.

    The take-home message: higher fibre intake and food sources with a lower total amount of carbohydrates may go some way to ensuring better overall health in older adults.
    Research score: 3/5