CHICAGO - Eat more fiber and you just may live longer.
That's the message from the largest study of its kind to find a link between high-fiber diets and lower risks of death not only from heart disease, but from infectious and respiratory illnesses as well.
The government study ties fiber with a lower risk of cancer deaths in men, but not women, possibly because men are more likely to die from cancers related to diet, like cancers of the esophagus.
The average American eats only about 15 grams, or about a half-ounce, of fiber each day - much less than the current daily recommendation of 25 grams, or seven-eighths of an ounce, for women and 38 grams, or 1 1/3 ounces, for men.
In the new study, the people who met the guidelines were less likely to die during a nine-year follow-up period.
The men and women who ate the highest amount of fiber were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause, compared with those who ate the lowest amount, said lead author Dr. Yikyung Park of the National Cancer Institute.
The study, appearing in yesterday's Archives of Internal Medicine, included more than 388,000 adults, ages 50 to 71, who participated in a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and AARP.
Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables and beans. But the study tied fiber from grains most strongly to lowered risk.
What does a high-fiber diet look like? A woman who wants to meet the guideline for daily fiber intake could eat one-third cup of bran cereal, a half-cup of cooked beans, a small apple with skin and a half-cup of mixed vegetables. A man could eat all that, plus about 23 almonds, a baked potato, an oat-bran muffin and an orange, for example.
Experts suggest adding fiber gradually to allow your digestive system time to get used to it.