Dietary fiber may play important role in ‘successful aging’

A study published in The Journals of Gerontology shows that eating the right amount of dietary fiber from breads, cereals, and fruits may protect against disease and disability as we age.

Using data compiled from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that examined a cohort of 1,609 adults aged 49+ for long-term sensory loss risk factors and systemic diseases, the researchers found that out of all the factors they examined—including a person’s total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake—it was fiber that made the biggest difference to what the researchers termed “successful aging.”

Successful aging status was determined through interviewer-administered questionnaire at each visit and defined as including an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases including cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

The researchers found that 15.5% of participants had aged successfully 10 years later. Dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, and carbohydrate intake were not significantly associated with successful aging. “Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80% greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up,” said lead researcher Bamini Gopinath, associate professor at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research’s Center for Vision Research in Australia. “That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability.”

The researchers concluded that “consumption of dietary fiber from breads/cereals, and fruits independently influenced the likelihood of aging successfully over 10 years. These findings suggest that increasing intake of fiber-rich foods could be a successful strategy in reaching old age disease free and fully functional.”

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