Fiber: The Hidden Miracle Food

July 20, 2007

Fiber: The Hidden Miracle Food 

 Competency # 12 Fiber                       ReferenceAmerican Journal Clinical Nutrition, June 2007Dietary Prevention of Atherosclerosis!  

You can prevent a heart attack by changing your diet.  The epidemic of the 20th century can be changed.  You can change your risks dramatically with the diet you eat.  This study is the first to get to the very heart of fiber and its contribution to this terrible epidemic that steals our loved ones at the prime of their lives. Looking at the thickness of the carotid artery in the IRAS (Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study), using a multiracial population of middle-aged women, the authors checked for thickness of the artery, in other words, how badly plaque was building up.  

What they found was astounding.  There identified a significant inverse relationship between the progression of carotid artery thickening (plaque building up on the way to rupture and artery disease of one kind or another) and how much WHOLE grains the study participants ate.  Not any one component, but the whole grain.  A great point was made to identify that it’s still a mystery as to which component of whole grains matter, the fiber, the germ, or the carbohydrate.  But, refined grains with just the white flour purified part, is what is associated with the problem of atherosclerosis.  The refined grain has a high glycemic index, meaning that the sugars from the carbohydrate get into your blood fast.  A whole grain has a much lower index, meaning it gets into your blood slowly.  But a whole grain also has the germ or the protein and vitamin part.  And, most importantly, it has fiber protecting the carbohydrate and germ, slowing digestion.  

Maybe most importantly, is that the fiber slows down how fast the sugars get into your blood. Let’s give an example.  Take two products made from the EXACT same grain, wheat.  Wheaties is a wheat-based cereal that has been ground making the whole grain into whole wheat flour, then made into a paste, baked into flakes, and put in a box.  The grinding up process dislocates the fiber from around the carbohydrate.  The glycemic index of Wheaties is 80 meaning that your blood sugar goes up 80% as fast as if you ate pure glucose.  Whole-grain cereal made from whole wheat grains has a glycemic index of 38%.  That’s half the rate of rise of blood glucose with the exact same food product.  One was ground into flour, one was eaten whole. It’s not the fiber, it’s not the bran, it’s not the carbohydrate.  Each one tested separately doesn’t figure with a positive effect.  It’s the whole package.  The whole grain has to be whole.  

We’ve said this before in this column.  Not made from whole grains, made of whole grains. Prepositions matter.  This is now the first evidence-based study in the medical literature to confirm the hunch.  Your carotid artery will thicken and get more diseased, the more refined carbohydrate you eat.  Hmmmmm… How much whole grain do I have to eat to avoid this effect?  The study used an achievable threshold.  They looked at three items: dark bread or high fiber cereals or granola cereals counted, shredded wheat counted, and cooked cereal counted.  In most research, they call it whole grain if you have greater than 25% of the content being visible whole-grain chunks.  This is doable.  If this level of easy change has the impact of this study, think how much better off you will be with more whole grains! 

 WWW: What Will Work for me.  The average American eats less than a serving a day of whole grains.  I try to eat at least one with my breakfast cereal which is 100% whole grains.  My Uncle Paul went on a strict Pritikin diet after his 5 vessel heart surgery in 1977.  10 years later, his heart disease had improved dramatically.  Research is now explaining why.  Bread in our house is taking longer to eat up as we gradually are finding more whole food recipes, salads, soups.  It’s a journey.  I’m on it. (Did I mention the occasional double fudge, chocolate no-fiber Dove bar?) 

 WHOLE GRAIN CEREAL RECIPE:  Dr. W’s Llama Chow  (Repeat Recipe by Request) BUY:  quinoa  (whole grain – still covered with fiber) Take 1 cup of the quinoa and add 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt Heat to boiling: watching like a hawk to make sure it doesn’t boil over Simmer 20 minutes with cover on Cool and put in the fridge: this is about 6-8 servings and lasts a week Each morning: take a ½ -1 cup dollop, add a cup of almond milk – heat in the microwave I add a fistful (1/2 - 1) of frozen blueberries Stevia if you must have a sweetener - you really don't need one. 2-3 heaping tablespoons of ground flax seed on top, stirred in (10-12 grams of fiber there too) You wont get hungry till lunchtime! Summary:  Glycemic index of 38 Two fruit servings (1/2 cup blueberries, ) One calcium serving 15 grams of fiber (1/2-1/3 of my daily goal)  

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-784-5300)