The Number One Miracle Food is FIBER

January 14, 2019

 References: LancetBBC NewsUSDAScience DirectInstitute of Medicine,

This is such a boring topic, you would think it would put you to sleep. Gads. But it's not and the pieces are falling into place to explain why it is so central to what we should eat to be well. 
First of all, the epidemiology. This week in the journal Lancet is a massive studylooking at 185 studies and 58 clinical trials that covered 135 million person-years of data. Combining all that data results in the conclusion that you can reduce all-cause mortality by about 30% when you take the lowest fiber consumption groups and push them up to the highest groups. Said another way, for every 1000 people who do that, you will see 13 fewer deaths and 6 fewer heart attacks PER YEAR. Said yet another way, this might be just about the most significant strategy to improve your health you can do on a daily basis, aside from intermittent fast mimicking and daily exercise.

What are the quantities they are talking about? Let's put it in context. In America, the average suburban middle-class person eats about 16-18 grams a day and poorer folks eat much, much less with some studies showing as low as 6 grams of fiber a day. Considering that french fries, lettuce, and ketchup are the most consumed vegetables in America (fast food), you can understand why. 

And what should we be eating? According to America's Institute of Medicine, adult men should get 38 grams a day, and women 25 grams. So, we are a long way short. If you look at other data, some studies show that when you hit 45 grams a day, you really hit it out of the park with even more benefits.

Other benefits? You bet. Less weight, less colon cancer, less breast cancer, less diabetes..... to knock off just about the top most common diseases in our society. Which suggests that the all the lesser diseases will decrease too. 
The origin of the fiber hypothesis is very interesting. An English surgeon by the name of Burkitt, hired by the East Africa Railway company over 100 years ago to provide health care for the local men working on the railway, was bored to tears. None of the "natives" got sick with the diseases of England he was used to caring for. In his typical English way, he studied the men and the only thing he had to measure was the volume of their voluminous stools. He went about weighing their poop after noticing that he had never seen such voluminous quantities before. Sounds gross. Turns out to be the first data on fiber in the world. So, this idea isn't new. He became known as the "King of Fiber". And he was right! 
Now, here is the twist that catches my eye. We now know the astoundingly important qualities of our gut bacteria in relationship to our health. And we know that gut bacteria turn high fiber vegetables into ketones. We know that gorillas, eating 15 pounds a day of green leaves end up with 70% of their calories being from beta-hydroxybutyrate, our principle ketone. We know our brain is aching to run on ketones and throw off its dependence on glucose as its sole food.

So, Voila! You want a healthy diet? You bet. How do you get it? Emphatically not with an animal based high protein diet (what we thought the ketogenic diet should be) but rather with a high fiber, gut soothing, bacteria feeding, poop making diet. If your daily stool is soft, voluminous and urgent to pass, you probably are close. If you are constipated, bound up, strain to poop, you are probably too low. The British have a good page on how to increase fiber. That means the real, ketogenic diet is one based on high fiber that nourishes your gut bacteria first. They make the ketones. You stay well. Whether you find the ketogenic production from resistant starches, vegetables, nuts, whole grains is all up to you. But now we have a common pathway that draws many lines of evidence into a "unified theory" of fiber and ketones.

Now, just skip a meal here and there.

WWW: What will work for me? I've swapped out eggs for breakfast with a nice, warm spinach and onion curry every morning. After doing it for a month, I'm used to it. I just finished roasting 4 pounds of brussels sprouts with lemon flavored olive oil, salt, and pepper. Now, I just have to wait for 135 million years to see if it helps me. So far, no colon cancer, heart disease or diabetes. My blood sugar went up on a keto diet based on animal. For me, that just doesn't work. My ambition for today is to learn how to make a Jerusalem artichoke Turkish dip that I had for dinner at a friend's house. It was yummy and Jerusalem artichoke is a champion of fiber. Never had it before so I want to learn something new..

Pop Quiz

  1. What is fiber? Answer: We should all know this. The stuff in food you can't digest, but the bacteria in your colon can. Increases the volume of happy bacteria in your gut that affects your metabolism, your blood vessel contentedness, your brain function and,....
  2. What is its principal effect? Answer: the bacteria in your gut make beta-hydroxybutyrate from it. The more they make, the happier your colon cells are, your brain cells are, your fat cells are, your diabetes cells are
  3. How much do I need to get a day? Answer: based on gender, probably at least twice what you are getting now. Women, at least 25 grams a day. Men 35. 45 is better. How not to get it: fast food. Pure white bread, with meat, cheese, sauce and french fries with sugared soda. Total fiber: about 2 grams.
  4. How do I know I'm getting enough? Answer: ok, this is gross but, large, bulky, soft stools with lots of volume. And waiting till you don't die from a heart attack, colon cancer, diabetes.....
  5. Name for me a couple of foods very high in fiber. Answer: Ground flax seed might be first. Green vegetables, nuts, lentils, whole grains each add their own kind. The more you have to chew might be a good clue. Odd things like Jerusalem artichokes are pretty good too.