15

votes

Is fiber necessary in our diet?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created February 24, 2010 at 2:03 PM

Some say we need lots of fiber, some say we don't really need it at all. What's the word on this?

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 01, 2012
at 10:56 AM

Nope unfortunately not yet.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on October 22, 2012
at 11:25 AM

Can we at least all agree that insoluble fiber is worthless and likely detrimental to gut health?

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 22, 2012
at 01:36 AM

When someone favors the Atkins journalist's opinions over the New England Journal we have a serious problem. I see you've done a little course correction, which is appreciated, but did you note that the NEJM article found the colon cancer correlation weak, and only of possible relevance to the red meat eating group? Do you dispute this, since red meat no doubt contains large amounts of processed meats? Maybe the author of GCBC will fund the continuation of the study? Not likely.

089dd41b18fbb95ebb5347cded708d98

(5635)

on October 22, 2012
at 12:29 AM

have you read this book?

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on October 21, 2012
at 11:47 PM

I hope my answer is not negative towards fiber. But it is negative against the current pro-fiber climate that makes claims based on studies like the one you are citing. It is a correlation questionnaire study. We really can't draw any conclusions from that (not even say things like "may...").

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 09:35 PM

Song for Steve: Smells Like Bob Atkins. When someone makes ridiculous claims like "In small quantities (e.g., a few veggies or tubers daily) they are probably not detrimental for most people either." they insult the intelligence of about 5 billion people.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 09:33 PM

Song for Steve: Smells Like Bob Atkins.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 09:28 PM

crightfunnylol sometimes these questions are served up like fat curveballs so the Paleo/Atkins faction can hit them out of the park (see HealthRediscovery's and Steve's comments below). I'm wondering if David is part of that faction, or if he has a health concern like celiac or irritable bowel.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 09:24 PM

-1. It IS negative, for no apparent reason. I'm not in favor of selectively critiquing ancestral diets, praising everything that is bacon or coconut oil-like, and damning everything that's vegetable-like. Also read the New England Journal of Medicine link I posted below, which shows a protective effect of fiber against colorectal cancer among women on a high red meat diet. While the effect of fiber on colorectal cancer may be unimportant for typical SAD dieters, there may be a siginifican benefit for meat eaters.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 09:17 PM

crightfunnylol sometimes these questions are served up like fat curveballs so the Paleo/Atkins faction can hit them out of the park. I'm wondering if David is part of that faction, or if he has a health concern like celiac or irritable bowel.

2e1591c76896828077b930de5107f1af

on October 17, 2012
at 09:03 PM

yo thhq, bro, this is a site for questions, and its a good thing to know

81181cab058dd652659e4bb2e6f25843

(528)

on October 17, 2012
at 08:36 PM

Yes, how could I have missed that! I seem to remember hearing something along the lines of it proliferating epithelial cells and inhibiting the proliferation of epithelial tumor cells. Very odd.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 07:13 PM

Dietary fiber may also be slightly protective against colon cancer, but like you say it's not like you'll die if you don't eat it. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199012133232404

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 07:04 PM

I've never seen any benefit from eating vast quantities of fiber, but I usually get consipated if I cut it out.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 07:01 PM

-1. It IS negative, for no apparent reason. I'm not in favor of selectively critiquing ancestral diets, praising everything that is bacon or coconut oil-like, and damning everything that's vegetable-like.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 06:57 PM

Hate responding to a zombie, but why on earth would you care. Earth to Dave, come in please.

81181cab058dd652659e4bb2e6f25843

(528)

on October 17, 2012
at 04:11 PM

You 'believe' that carbs and fiber you eat (admittedly from whole veggies) feeds 'pathogenic' gut flora? Steve, you have a lot of explaining to do, unless of course you believe this information bacause it was revealed to you in some divine happening. Certainly this beleif isn't based on any tangible evidence.

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on October 17, 2012
at 02:58 PM

I down-voted this not because of the point woolly was making but the condescending manner in which the point is made here. Most of us ARE awake and can manage to be respectful, even when frustrated.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 19, 2012
at 02:13 PM

I love that guy.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on January 21, 2011
at 01:50 AM

Both excellent points...butyrate and SCFAs are reason enough to add some fiber in. If you can get fiber without fructose, then I think it's a reasonable addition to any diet, and has been in the diet of the genus Homo for millions of years.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:44 AM

I also eat for an 8 hr window. My favorite point of the fast is the last 2 hrs before breaking it, and until about an hour after. Breaking the fast with some great food... feeling is almost euphoric

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 24, 2010
at 06:05 PM

I think we need to differniate between anti mainstream fiber recommendations and anti-fiber. The natural meaning for anti-fiber would be that fiber is bad for you. If I understand the PaNu stance, it is simply that we shouldn't try to eat extra fiber. Maybe this is splitting hairs though, I have seen very few people actually claim that fiber is bad for you (Aajonus Vonderplaintz, maybe?).

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13 Answers

best answer

17
Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 24, 2010
at 02:52 PM

No. Good Calorie, Bad Calorie by Gary Taubes has a good review of fiber. None of the original claims have panned out in studies. The history is very interesting: those studying public health needed a way to explain why indigenous populations were healthy and then became diseased once they ate the foods of civilization. Of course the answer was mostly that flour and sugar are devastating to health, but that wasn't a politically correct answer. Incredibly, the original proponent of the fiber theory had treated the Masai in Africa, who appear to be in great health when they eat their natural diet with very little fiber.

We should also note that the Inuit ate almost 0 plant fiber at certain times of year and were certainly on a low fiber diet. Cases of any cancer in the Inuit (including digestive-related that fiber supposedly prevents) were extraordinarily rare. I believe Taubes mentions this point in a talk about sugar. I have seen people call animal connective tissue a form of fiber, although I wouldn't use that terminology. This is the only "fiber" worth going out of your way to eat in my mind. Our paleo ancestors didn't just eat tender cuts of meat. Stephenson in Fat of the Land stated that the Inuit threw tender cuts to the dogs and said the tougher cuts of meat tasted better, and they ate it by chewing minimally and just swallowing.

Stephen at Whole Health Source blog had some posts bringing forth some causal evidence that fiber can have some limited beneficial effects. One is the creation of butyrate, which you can get from butter. The other was improved gut health from oligofructose. Stephen's claims are different from silly mainstream theories (for example: prevents colon cancer) that have nothing real to back them up as discussed in Good Calorie, Bad Calorie. Fiber can also slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, but of course the better solution is to not eat so many carbohydrates that you require fiber to digest them in a healthy way.


Edit: This Answer risks seeming really negative towards fiber. I haven't seen any evidence that paleo-like fiber consumptions is unhealthy. Paleo-like means the amount you would get from eating healthy amounts of vegetables and fruits and possibly a fair amount of tubers (yams, etc) or nuts.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 09:24 PM

-1. It IS negative, for no apparent reason. I'm not in favor of selectively critiquing ancestral diets, praising everything that is bacon or coconut oil-like, and damning everything that's vegetable-like. Also read the New England Journal of Medicine link I posted below, which shows a protective effect of fiber against colorectal cancer among women on a high red meat diet. While the effect of fiber on colorectal cancer may be unimportant for typical SAD dieters, there may be a siginifican benefit for meat eaters.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 07:01 PM

-1. It IS negative, for no apparent reason. I'm not in favor of selectively critiquing ancestral diets, praising everything that is bacon or coconut oil-like, and damning everything that's vegetable-like.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on October 21, 2012
at 11:47 PM

I hope my answer is not negative towards fiber. But it is negative against the current pro-fiber climate that makes claims based on studies like the one you are citing. It is a correlation questionnaire study. We really can't draw any conclusions from that (not even say things like "may...").

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 22, 2012
at 01:36 AM

When someone favors the Atkins journalist's opinions over the New England Journal we have a serious problem. I see you've done a little course correction, which is appreciated, but did you note that the NEJM article found the colon cancer correlation weak, and only of possible relevance to the red meat eating group? Do you dispute this, since red meat no doubt contains large amounts of processed meats? Maybe the author of GCBC will fund the continuation of the study? Not likely.

12
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on February 24, 2010
at 04:18 PM

Not need certainly, but then our bodies are flexible, there are lots of thing we don't need- large amounts of animal fats for example, we could mostly just manufacture our own from sweet potato- so the question is whether fibre would be optimal.

Clearly hunter-gatherers have thrived in a wide variety of contexts and for every healthy Inuit you can find a healthy kitavan. It would make sense that a flexible, omnivorous animal like humans would be able to survive without a daily dose of fibre, but be able to do something useful (e.g. butyrate) with it if it is a large part of our diet.

As I mused over here, fibre seems good if you've got a healthy gut flora to do useful things with your fibre (like turn it into fat) and positively harmful if you've got lots of pathogenic bacteria. As Peter notes, eating lots of fibre is basically feeding your digestive bugs, whether this is good depends on the bacteria. As he notes in that series, bacteria can have a huge array of quite scarily profound effects on us, they typically have an interest in keeping us alive, but they might well achieve this by forcing us to store fat, even making us prefer certain foods.

Another possibility is that higher amounts of fibre are desirable if you're eating large amounts of carbohydrate, but neither necessary nor desirable if not. We can perhaps say something similar of vitamin C and such plant-based nutrients, it seems plausible that where humans were reliant on lots of plant material, we'd do best getting the complete package, rather than a processed source of carbohydrate. At kitavan levels of starchy tuber, you might be looking at around 50g fibre per day.

My personal experience is that my digestion was awful one a very high fibre, pre-paleo flax and wheat bran diet, fine on a 0g fibre paleo diet but most comfortably on LC paleo with healthy doses of low carb vegetables. Extremely high fibre is certainyl bad (anti-nutritious) so I'd stick to evolutionarily plausible amounts of fibre. I think relatively high amounts of plant and fibre could be plausible. Not every-one in a community can be hunting animals all the time and whatever the hunter-gatherers are gathering, would likely contain decent amounts of fibre.

8
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 24, 2010
at 02:50 PM

Well, we certainly don't need it for what mainstream medicine thinks we need it for. Fiber is NOT the best way to keep things moving. Healthy gut flora will do that.

What fiber DOES provide is a way for our colon to produce short chain fatty acids. Some of these might be beneficial and important. Whole Health Source has a good post about it. Our closest relatives, the great apes, get most of their energy from SCFA. We don't have a big enough colon to do that, but we can still make them.

6
03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on February 24, 2010
at 05:19 PM

David, Most of us are solid on the hunter part, but you are right to remind us that gathering is part of a paleo diet too.

3
81181cab058dd652659e4bb2e6f25843

(528)

on October 17, 2012
at 04:57 PM

If necessary means you will die without it then no, it isn't necessary in that sense.

Soluble fiber is fermented into SCFA by certain (note: not all) gut flora (mostly the beneficial ones) so by 'feeding' them they are able to out-compete the pathogenic flora thereby improving your personal brand of flora.

Having plentiful gut flora proliferated by a significant but reasonable intake of soluble fiber greatly aides in the metabolism and excretion of micro and macro component carcinogens. The flora also synthesize biotin and vitamin K.

SCFA produced by the flora...

  • proliferate and differentiate epithelial cells in the gut (good)
  • provide a slow steady feed of energy to the organism, or ... You (good)
  • lower the pH of the gut causing it to be relatively inhabitable for foreign flora (good)
  • lowered pH of the gut aides in excreting dietary carcinogens (good)
  • aides in the absorption of minerals calcium, magnesium, and iron (good)

For the aforementioned reasons I cannot find any logical purpose to NOT eat a significant but reasonable amount of soluble fiber. It has no known, scientifically proven cons for the average human.

Edit: My idea of ' significant but reasonable is ~10-20 g/day

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 07:13 PM

Dietary fiber may also be slightly protective against colon cancer, but like you say it's not like you'll die if you don't eat it. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199012133232404

81181cab058dd652659e4bb2e6f25843

(528)

on October 17, 2012
at 08:36 PM

Yes, how could I have missed that! I seem to remember hearing something along the lines of it proliferating epithelial cells and inhibiting the proliferation of epithelial tumor cells. Very odd.

3
183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

on January 21, 2011
at 12:52 AM

Personally I feel that fiber is not necessary, but good gut bacterial health is THE KEY. Also, When scientists study the bowel habits of indigenous and 3rd world cultures, they forget that squat pooping is also a key to good bowel health - the composition of a diet can sometimes be a red herring.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on January 21, 2011
at 01:50 AM

Both excellent points...butyrate and SCFAs are reason enough to add some fiber in. If you can get fiber without fructose, then I think it's a reasonable addition to any diet, and has been in the diet of the genus Homo for millions of years.

1
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 05, 2011
at 05:01 PM

Been looking at this myself and thought I would add to this old post for people searching in the future.

Dr. Konstantin Monastyrsky.
http://www.gutsense.org

Fiber Menace: The Truth About the Leading Role of Fiber in Diet Failure, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease, and Colon Cancer: http://www.gutsense.org/fibermenace/about_fm.html

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 19, 2012
at 02:13 PM

I love that guy.

089dd41b18fbb95ebb5347cded708d98

(5635)

on October 22, 2012
at 12:29 AM

have you read this book?

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 01, 2012
at 10:56 AM

Nope unfortunately not yet.

1
E258d3ab9815cad55f90ae462b85c1cf

on February 24, 2010
at 04:07 PM

Fiber and Paleo. You might find a difference of opinions on this one.

PaNu is anti-wheat and for the most part anti-fiber*.

*Greens are fibrous and not starchy or calorie dense, so if we add enough back to replace the lost calories, we are eating a huge amount of vegetables now. This is in fact advocated by authors like Colin Campbell and Joel Furhman - it can have some effect as the mechanical satiety and sheer work of eating may reduce your caloric intake. However, you will be having a minimal effect on insulin levels at the expense of eating fewer higher quality animal foods and absurd amounts of fiber - this approach only makes sense if you think animal products and fats per se are unhealthy - they are not. Also you just don't need that many vegetables in general and you don't need "fiber" at all.

I just cut and paste from the related question here: LINK

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 24, 2010
at 06:05 PM

I think we need to differniate between anti mainstream fiber recommendations and anti-fiber. The natural meaning for anti-fiber would be that fiber is bad for you. If I understand the PaNu stance, it is simply that we shouldn't try to eat extra fiber. Maybe this is splitting hairs though, I have seen very few people actually claim that fiber is bad for you (Aajonus Vonderplaintz, maybe?).

0
C88eeeb035bb33881c104982d0ab7d69

on August 03, 2013
at 04:28 PM

This seems to be an old topic, but I wonder if anyone has a comment/response to the recent Mother Jones article about fiber. It suggests a link between "bad" bacteria, the endotoxins they produce, inflammation, and heart disease/metabolic syndrome. Fiber supports the presence and replacement of "good" bacteria, according to the hypothesis in this article. Oddly enough, the article starts with a championing of orange juice, which in certain studies seems to reduce endotoxins and do a lot of other good things.

I was impressed by Gary Taubes' book, but this Mother Jones article (recent issue, I don't remember which one) was pretty convincing.

I would love it if someone would respond to this apparent contradiction. Earlier answers seem to suggest that the fiber in protein-rich vegetables is better than the fiber in fruits (e.g., a banana) which also contain sugars.

Any thoughts? Data?

0
4939b9e88704169621b471f27a603e69

(0)

on July 17, 2012
at 11:31 PM

How can you tell if you need more fiber?

0
D38c0cc994b194de08289e0fe3f99d1e

(421)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:22 AM

Fiber and carbs for that matter are not essential for good health. In small quantities (e.g., a few veggies or tubers daily) they are probably not detrimental for most people either.

For me personally, the less fiber I eat the better I feel. My carb/fiber consumption is essentially all from veggies. I believe the carbs and fiber feed pathogenic gut bacteria. To control it, I eat veggies one meal a day every other day or so, and I make a point to have a 16+ hour daily fasting period with no food (e.g., I restrict eating to an 8 or less window each day). I always feel the best when I'm 8+ hours into my fast (I welcome feedback or comments if anyone knows what's going on).

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:44 AM

I also eat for an 8 hr window. My favorite point of the fast is the last 2 hrs before breaking it, and until about an hour after. Breaking the fast with some great food... feeling is almost euphoric

81181cab058dd652659e4bb2e6f25843

(528)

on October 17, 2012
at 04:11 PM

You 'believe' that carbs and fiber you eat (admittedly from whole veggies) feeds 'pathogenic' gut flora? Steve, you have a lot of explaining to do, unless of course you believe this information bacause it was revealed to you in some divine happening. Certainly this beleif isn't based on any tangible evidence.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 09:33 PM

Song for Steve: Smells Like Bob Atkins.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 09:35 PM

Song for Steve: Smells Like Bob Atkins. When someone makes ridiculous claims like "In small quantities (e.g., a few veggies or tubers daily) they are probably not detrimental for most people either." they insult the intelligence of about 5 billion people.

0
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on January 21, 2011
at 12:05 AM

I have spent years trying to make sure I get enough fiber. I think I started with the high fiber thinking to "keep myself fuller longer", which I guess I'm now doing with fat.

I am having a huge mental block on getting past making sure I get 20 grams of fiber per day. I am wondering if there are any new thoughts on this subject.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on October 17, 2012
at 07:04 PM

I've never seen any benefit from eating vast quantities of fiber, but I usually get consipated if I cut it out.

-3
6b916bbab5021f641d010d7185c1298d

on October 17, 2012
at 07:52 AM

Wake up you wet kvnts, like Mother Nature intended for us to have carrots with are woolly mammoth, Doesn???t it make biological sense, that the three macronutrients one need to sustain life could be found under one skin, like fats, protein, water.

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on October 17, 2012
at 02:58 PM

I down-voted this not because of the point woolly was making but the condescending manner in which the point is made here. Most of us ARE awake and can manage to be respectful, even when frustrated.

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