High Fiber Diet May Be Key to Weight Loss Success

Mixed VegetablesWith all the diets currently proposed for weight loss, no wonder diets sometimes seem confused. But a new year-long study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that individuals who focused only on eating 30 grams of fiber per day lost almost as much weight as individuals who followed a more complicated diet.

For the study, researchers at University of Massachusetts Medical School sought to evaluate a diet focused on increased fiber consumption versus the multicomponent American Heart Association (AHA) dietary guidelines. The AHA diet consists of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, and nuts with red meat and sugary foods and drinks consumed in moderation but can become complicated with goals and targets for total calories, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and sodium, among other factors.

During the course of the study, the researchers divided 240 adults with the metabolic syndrome into two groups. The first group followed the AHA diet while the second aimed to consume 30 grams of fiber each day.

States lead author Dr. Yunsheng Ma of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester on the choice of fiber for the study:

“We chose dietary fiber because it exerts clinical benefits on several components of metabolic syndrome, including waist circumference, glucose and lipid homeostasis, and insulin control, in addition to body weight and regulation of certain inflammatory markers.”

Further explains Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic who works closely with the department of preventive cardiology, “Fiber fills you up, expands in your stomach, fiber also keeps you fuller longer.”

Metabolic syndrome — which includes symptoms like a large waistline, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides — increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes and currently affects 25 percent of adults worldwide.

After one year, participants in both groups lost weight and saw improvements in blood pressure, dietary quality, and insulin resistance.

Participants in the high-fiber group lost an average of about four and a half pounds compared to nearly six pounds in the AHA group. Seven participants in the high-fiber group developed diabetes over the year-long study compared to only one in the AHA group.

The findings indicate that, although the AHA diet produced better outcomes, both diets helped participants lose weight. More importantly, the “permissive” dietary plan of the high-fiber, which involved simply adding more fiber into the diet, still showed positive results and was easy to follow.

Dr. Ma argues that permissive diets may produce more beneficial effects than a “restrictive” dietary plan, such as a plan that reduces saturated fat. Says Sherry Pagono, a clinical psychologist at UMass Medical School:

“By telling people to eat more of something. They were able to lose a little bit of weight,” she adds. “Most diets will tell you what you shouldn’t be eating and restrict all kinds of things, and with this one we just said eat a whole bunch of fiber and people lost weight.”

However, Dr. Ma also cautions that increasing fiber intake requires including a variety of high-fiber foods into the diet:

“However, we ask not to rely on fiber supplements or any one food to increase daily fiber, but rather to obtain fiber from a variety of foods in their diet as suited to individual tastes and preferences.”

Excellent sources of fiber include legumes, barley, other whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Another recent study found that a low-fat, plant-based vegan diet may reduce the risk of heart disease among obese children and teens through improvements in weight, blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity, and high-sensitivity C-reactive.


Focusing on Fiber May Work for Weight Loss:
Health Watch: High Fiber Diet, Binge Watching Warning:
Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial:

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