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Fiber from whole grains may lower diabetes risk


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Fiber from whole grains may lower diabetes risk

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The type of fiber found in whole grains and many vegetables -- called insoluble fiber -- may help prevent diabetes by improving the body's use of the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin, a small study suggests. The findings, published in Diabetes Care, add to evidence linking cereal fiber to a lower diabetes risk.

Since a decline in insulin sensitivity precedes type 2 diabetes, people may help lower their diabetes risk by getting more insoluble fiber, Dr. Martin Weickert, a researcher at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal who led the study told Reuters Health.

There are two main types of fiber -- soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material, and it's believed to lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Foods like oatmeal and beans, as well as apples, berries and certain other fruits are high in soluble fiber.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve, passing through the digestive system largely intact. It's been unclear why, in some studies, diets high in insoluble fiber have been linked to lower diabetes risk, Weickert said.

To investigate, his team had 17 overweight women spend three days on a diet that included a bread enriched with insoluble fiber, and another three days eating a similar, but low-fiber, bread.

After a few days on the fiber-rich bread, the women's measures of insulin sensitivity improved, the researchers found.

It's best, Weickert noted, to get fiber from its natural sources, namely plant-based foods. But since most people fall far short of the recommended fiber intake -- 20 to 35 grams per day -- fiber supplements might be a reasonable "second choice," he added.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, April 2006.

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