A substance found in foods that come from plants (fruits and vegetables) and typically cannot be digested. Also called bulk or roughage.

Fibre helps in the digestive process and is thought to lower cholesterol and help control blood glucose. The two types of fibre in food are soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre, found in beans, fruits, and oat products, dissolves in water and is thought to help lower blood fats and blood glucose. Insoluble fibre, found in whole-grain products and vegetables, passes directly through the digestive system, helping to rid the body of waste products and possibly prevent diseases such as colon cancer.

High fibre diets help delay the progression of diverticulosis and, at least, reduce the bouts of diverticulitis. In many cases, it helps reduce the symptoms of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (also called spastic colitis, mucus colitis, and nervous colon syndrome.) It is generally accepted that a diet high in fibre is protective, or at least reduces the incidence, of colon polyps and colon cancer.

Soluble fibre substances are effective in helping reduce the blood cholesterol. This is especially true with oat bran, fruits, psyllium and legumes. High soluble-fibre diets may lower cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins ( the 'bad' lipoproteins ) by 8% to 15%.

Insoluble fibre retains water in the colon, resulting in a softer and larger stool. It is used effectively in treating constipation resulting from poor dietary habits. Bran is particularly rich in insoluble fibre.

Soluble fibres (oat bran, apples, citrus, pears, peas/beans, psyllium, etc.) slow down the digestion of carbohydrates (sugars), which results in better glucose metabolism. Some patients with the adult-onset diabetes may actually be successfully treated with a high-fibre diet alone, and those on insulin, can often reduce their insulin requirements by adhering to a high-fibre diet.

American spelling: fiber

(12 Dec 1998)

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