What is dietary fibre?

These are indigestible polysaccharides that are of plant origin. They include cellulose, pectin and resistant starch. These substances do not change much during the cooking process. Soluble fibres are found in fruits and vegetables m while insoluble fibres are found in cereals and whole grains. The intestinal ecology is maintained in by-products of these fibres.

When have the benefits of dietary fibre observed?

This has been observed for centuries. The first mention was by Hippocrates, where coarse wheat was known to have laxative effects. Dennis Burk, its publication in 1970 opened the floodgates for researchers in this field.

What are the sources of dietary fibre?

Refined and processed food contains very minimal dietary fibre. Sugar, oil, milk, and meat have no dietary fibre. The insoluble fibre in the form of cellulose is found in wheat flour, bran, root vegetables, legumes, peas, apples etc. Carrots and fruits contain insole  Ubley lignin. Leafy vegetables are rich in fibre.

How are the dietary fibres metabolized?

On reaching the intestines in small fragments, they are converted to fatty acids. These influence glucose, fat, and cholesterol metabolism. The short-chain fatty acids contribute to 10 % of our energy requirements. The coarse fibres hold more water and ultimately all the fibres are ex-meted in faces.

What is the role of dietary fibres in obesity?

Obesity is the mother of many disorders. Dietary fibre is a barrier to energy intake and promotes weight loss. In many studies, dietary fibre intake of more than 20 grams per day over 2 years has been associated with significant weight loss. In the management of obesity, dietary fibre has prime importance. The ultra-processed refined food, which is devoid of fibres, is now being found unhealthy. Lifestyle factors are responsible for obesity which is associated with a host of medical problems. Behavioural changes, especially dietary modifications which include a high fibre dietary are important aspects in treating obesity and other associated conditions.

What about dietary fibre and high cholesterol?

In addition to restricting calorie intake, fibres adsorb fatty acids, cholesterol, and bile acids. Dietary fibres favour the concentration of certain fatty acids that inhibit an enzyme which is key in cholesterol synthesis.

Is there a role for dietary fibre in diabetes care?

High dietary fibre restricts calories and decreases glucose absorption. Fibres also increase insulin sensitivity. High fibre diet reduces oxidative stress in diabetics. In patients who are at risk of developing type 2 Diabetes, a high-fibre diet can be a useful addition.

Can dietary fibre reduce constipation and regularize bowel habits?

Fibres in the intestines hold water and prevent constipation. They reduce appetite as they give a sensation of fullness in the stomach. It also decreases the frequency of eating, which helps in reducing calorie intake. It increases salivation and adds bulk to the stools.

What about colorectal cancer?

The incidence of this cancer is steadily increasing. Dietary fibres are known to have a protective effect. They dilute the carcinogens present in the bowel and speed up the passage of stools, which makes the contact time of these carcinogens to the bowel wall much less. It also reduces gut inflammation. Dietary fibre supports healthy gut microbiota. There is also decreased incidence of diverticula. Dietary fibre is an important field of research and new data is being added continuously. Recommended dietary fibre should be included in daily diet to achieve better physical and emotional health, and also to prevent colorectal cancer and chronic metabolic diseases.

Categories : Health

Dr Jay Deshmukh is Chief Physician and Director, Sunflower Hospital, Nagpur Honorary Physician to Honorable Governor of Maharashtra and PondicherryCentral. Dr Jay Deshmukh is an M.B.B.S., M.C.P.S., F.C.P.S., M.N.A.M.S., MD From Internal Medicine – Bombay and New Delhi.

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