Does Fiber Improve Heart Health?

Does Fiber Improve Heart Health?


By: Kennedy Shelley

Since 2000 you have been getting a huge number of marketing messages claiming that high fiber products improve your heart health.

Is this true and where did this idea come from?

Well like most marketing messages from processed food companies this is partially true but also a bit murky in the details.

What they are referring to is a landmark study in 2000 where type 2 diabetics in the VA were given more fiber in their diet.

It was a double-blind study and though Proctor and Gamble helped pay for the study, it has stood up to scrutiny.

They gave the vets an additional 24 g of fiber in the form of 16 g of insoluble fiber and 8 g of water-soluble fiber.  Those who got it, it improved the blood sugar of the diabetics but also reduced their cholesterol levels by 6.7%.

The results speak for themselves.  These were good things, and no one objected to the increased fiber, so it’s an easy fix that improved the health of these diabetic vets.

Now let’s talk about the food marketing message…the FDA allowed high sugar cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios to put a label on their package saying it was heart healthy.  A serving of Honey Nut Cheerios is ¾’s of a cup and contains 9 g of sugar and 11 g of total carbs and 2 g of total fiber.

But remember, the VA study showed that it took 24 g of fiber to get cholesterol down, so 2 g is 8% of the fiber needed to get that effect.

So, does getting 8% of the fiber needed to get to the suggested goal of 24 grams of fiber enough to make it heart healthy in one of your three meals for the day?

But there is another question…does lowering cholesterol make your heart healthy?

This is where a little nutritional history becomes important.

Heart disease became a growing killer in the US in the 20th Century, it started peaking in the 1960’s, but it really became a national priority when President Eisenhower had a heart attack.  Heart diseases became public enemy #1 and everyone wanted to know why it was happening.

The man who became known as the person who had the answer was Ancel Keys.  He created the Dietary Heart Hypothesis.  His thought was eating saturated fat increased dietary cholesterol, and since heart attacks were caused by plaques in the arteries that were made up of cholesterol, eating less of it would save your heart.

He produced the Seven Countries study which showed fewer heart attacks in seven countries where they ate less meat.

So, to the media and most people the mystery was solved.

But was it really?  What most people don’t realize is that there were three countries that were left out of the seven-country study…because they didn’t fit Keys’ model.  Germany, France and Switzerland ate significant amounts of red meat, but didn’t have heart attacks.

People don’t remember that the dietary heart hypothesis was actually an untested idea and it was not widely accepted from 1960 and through most of the 1970’s.  As a matter of fact, when you look at Keys’ data, it actually showed sugar was a bigger danger than cholesterol.

And the data on sugar consumption in the 20th Century actually correlates better.  Red meat consumption dropped when heart attacks were increasing, but sugar consumption increased.

What this means is cholesterol is not the danger to your heart.  And this makes sense because when autopsies are performed on people who suffer fatal heart attacks only half have elevated cholesterol levels.

To make more sense about the science of cholesterol, see this article in Freedom Health News.

So, when people talk about fiber and heart health, what they are really saying is that cholesterol is responsible for heart health, and that is a theory with some very dubious proof.

And to make matters worse, if you are pre-diabetic, insulin resistant or a type 2 diabetic eating a meal high in carbs and sugar does not seem like a heart healthy thing to do, especially when you are only getting 2 g of fiber.

What this means is you have to look past the marketing message on manufactured foods and remember to ask yourself  “what’s the science behind the marketing claims?”