I got an email today from a friend who told me that her New Year’s resolutions were to avoid toxic situations…and to eat more kale. I laughed. But upon reflection…not bad choices, either of them. We should all be making a resolution to eat more fiber.
Coincidentally – or perhaps not! – there was a really good article on New Year’s day in the New York Times about recent research into the importance of fiber for good health. “A diet of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, reduces the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Indeed, the evidence for fiber’s benefits extends beyond any particular ailment: People who eat more of it simply have lower odds of dying.” [i]
Well, that certainly sounds like a pretty good reason to eat more fiber.
Researchers continue delved deeper into the mechanism of action for these known health benefits. I’ve written before (several times) about how fiber feeds the good, short-chain-fatty-acid producing (thus, anti-inflammatory) bacteria of the gut. Two studies have just been published looking at fiber and microbiome in greater depth. In these two studies, researchers fed a group of mice a low-fiber, high-fat diet (which is similar to the standard Western diet) and found that there were significant negative alterations in gut bacteria.
Interestingly though, it was not just the bacterial microbiota that were negatively affected. They also found that the mice’ intestines got smaller and the intestinal mucus layer got thinner, resulting in bacteria being much closer to the intestinal wall thereby causing an inflammatory reaction. The mice also got fatter and had higher blood sugar levels.
One group of researchers fed a second group of mice a high fat diet but also, inulin, which is a prebiotic fiber. These mice had healthier guts than the group that didn’t get the fiber, and the bacteria were at a safer distance from the intestinal wall. The second group of researchers also fed the mice inulin, but at much higher doses, and the improvements were much more marked.
One other experiment was conducted: a group of high-fat mice was given a probiotic in their water and these mice produced more gut mucus.
The fiber was not a cure-all for the effects of the unhealthy diet, but certainly, it made a noticeable and measurable difference. One of the researchers concluded that, “It points to the boring thing that we all know but no one does…If you eat more green veggies and less fries and sweets, you’ll probably be better off in the long term.”
So resolve that in 2018, you will eat more kale.