Dietary fibre and cardiovascular health: a review of current evidence and policy.

Abstract

Dietary fibre comprises many different, mainly plant-based, compounds that are not fully digested in the human gut. Insoluble fibres include cellulose, hemi-celluloses and lignin and soluble fibres include pectins, β-glucan and hydro-colloids. In the UK, the daily recommended amount has increased to 30 g but only 13 % of men and 4 % of women meet this recommendation. Currently the mean intake for adults is 21 g for men and 17 g for women. There is a wealth of epidemiological evidence based on systematic reviews of trials and cohorts to support the higher fibre recommendation. This includes evidence of reductions in the risk for CVD (both heart disease and stroke) and lower risk of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, lower LDL-cholesterol, as well as some cancers. Beneficial effects of fibre operate via a diverse range of mechanisms throughout the digestive system including the mouth, stomach and small and large intestine; some of which are still not completely understood. The updated recommendation for fibre is a long way from a typical British diet and requires several daily portions of fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods. Improving dietary fibre intakes will require a variety of actions and policies from stakeholders; however, there is currently more of a focus on reducing sugar than increasing fibre. In order to increase the number of adults meeting the fibre recommendation, social marketing and labelling of high-fibre foods are warranted as well as reformulation and wider availability of wholegrain versions of popular foods.

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