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Spring into Weight Loss

Lose Weight—and Keep It Off—on a High-Protein Diet

Useful Herbs & Supplements

Arugula and White Bean Salad

Add Fiber to Lose Weight

Hoodia: A Natural Appetite Suppressant

How Do I Pick a Diet That Fits My Lifestyle?

Add Fiber to Lose Weight

dequate amounts of dietary fiber are believed to be important for people wishing to lose weight. Fiber adds bulk to the diet and tends to produce a sense of fullness, helping people consume fewer calories. While research on the effect of fiber intake on weight loss has not produced consistent results, a recent review of weight-loss trials that did not restrict calories concluded that higher-fiber diets improved weight-loss results, especially in people who were overweight.

Dietary fiber comes from the thick cell wall of plants. It is an indigestible complex carbohydrate. Fiber is divided into two general categories: water soluble and water insoluble.

Where is it found?
Whole grains are particularly high in insoluble fiber. Oats, barley, beans, fruit (but not fruit juice), psyllium, and some vegetables contain significant amounts of both forms of fiber and are the best sources of soluble fiber. The best source of lignan, by far, is flaxseed (not flaxseed oil, regardless of packaging claims to the contrary).

Who is likely to be deficient?
Most people who consume a typical Western diet are fiber-deficient. Eating white flour, white rice, and fruit juice (as opposed to whole fruit) all contribute to this problem. Many so-called whole wheat products contain mostly white flour. Read labels and avoid “flour” and “unbleached flour,” both of which are simply white flour. Junk food is also fiber depleted.

The benefits of eating whole grains are largely derived from the beneficial constituents present in the outer layers of the grains, which are stripped away in making white flour and white rice. Preliminary research has found that women who ate mostly whole-grain fiber had a lower mortality rate than women who ate a comparable amount of refined grains.

Western diets generally provide approximately 10 grams of fiber per day. People in less-developed countries consume 40 to 60 grams per day. Increasing fiber intake to the amounts found in such diets may be desirable.

Are there any side effects or interactions?
While people can be allergic to certain high-fiber foods (most commonly wheat), high-fiber diets are more likely to improve health than cause any health problems. Beans, a good source of soluble fiber, also contain special sugars that are often poorly digested, leading to gas. Special enzyme products are now available in supermarkets to reduce this problem by improving digestion of these sugars.

Fiber reduces the absorption of many minerals. However, high-fiber diets also tend to be high in minerals, so the consumption of a high-fiber diet does not appear to impair mineral status. However, logic suggests that calcium, magnesium, and multimineral supplements should not be taken at the same time as a fiber supplement.

Bran, an insoluble fiber, reduces the absorption of calcium enough to cause urinary calcium to fall. In one study, supplementation with 10 grams of rice bran twice a day reduced the recurrence rate of kidney stones by nearly 90% in recurrent stone formers. However, it is not known whether other types of bran would have the same effect. Before supplementing with bran, people should check with a doctor, because some people—even a few with kidney stones—do not absorb enough calcium. For those people, supplementing with bran might deprive them of much-needed calcium.

People with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis) should consult a doctor before taking fiber supplements or eating high-fiber diets. Although a gradual introduction of fiber in the diet may improve bowel symptoms in some cases, there have been several reports of people with scleroderma developing severe constipation and even bowel obstruction requiring hospitalization after fiber supplementation.


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