Dietary fiber consists of edible parts of plants or analogous carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion and absorption in the human small intestine. Fiber can be classified as a dietary source (eg, cereal, fruit, vegetable, or legume) or as a supplement. Based on chemical properties, fiber can be divided to water-soluble (eg, β-glucans, pectin, and guar) and insoluble (eg, cellulose and lignin) forms. An increasing number of observational findings have reported a lower incidence of coronary heart disease in subjects who report consuming diets high in fiber. Dietary fiber is thought to affect several cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. Soluble fiber decreases serum total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations and improves insulin resistance. The effect of fiber on inflammatory markers and coagulation is not yet well established. While soluble, gel-forming fiber has beneficially affected CVD risk factors, food sources of mainly insoluble fibers, primarily contributed by cereal products, have been the most consistently associated with lower incidence rates of CVD. Despite this contradiction, the evidence promotes a food-based approach favoring increased intake of whole-grain cereals, fruit, and vegetables providing a mixture of different types of fibers for CVD prevention.
Arja T. Erkkilä, PhD Department of Clinical Nutrition, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland
Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass.
Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass.
This work has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland (79433, 80232) and the US Department of Agriculture, under agreement No. 58-1950-4-401.
Disclaimers: Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the US Department of Agriculture.
Corresponding author Arja Erkkilä, PhD, Department of Public Health and General Practice, University of Kuopio, PO Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland (e-mail: email@example.com).