Dietary Fiber Helps Stave Off Disease in Old Age
New research has found that a diet rich in fiber could not only improve our everyday health now, but could also improve our future health by helping us avoid disease and disability in old age.
Scientists from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research looked at data from a cohort group of more than 1,600 adults aged 50 years and over to look at a possible association between carbohydrate nutrition and what the team call “successful aging” — defined as an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases including cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke.
After looking at the effect of total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake on successful aging, the team found that it was perhaps surprisingly fiber from sources such as breads, cereals, and fruits that had the biggest effect of those factors on successful aging, with those who had the highest intake of fiber benefiting from an almost 80 percent greater chance of living a long and healthy life during the 10-year follow-up and less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability.
Sugar did not have the negative impact expected, however the study’s lead author Bamini Gopinath pointed out that the age range used in the study did not consume a large amount of carbonated and sugary drinks, lowering their overall sugar intake.
The research is the first to look at a possible link between carbohydrate intake and healthy aging, and although it is too early to set nutrition guidelines based on the results, Gopinath believes the significance of the results warrants further investigation.
This study also supports previous findings by Westmead Institute researchers which have already shown the importance of a healthy diet on successful aging. Their research published last year in The Journals of Gerontology showed that in general, those who followed the recommended national dietary guidelines were more likely to enjoy an absence of chronic diseases and disability and good functional and mental health as they moved into old age.