Fibre is considered by many to be an essential dietary component. When starch is present in the diet, the absence of dietary fibre has been shown to cause detrimental glycaemic effects, and these effects in turn may cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is now linked to a number of Western lifestyle diseases including diabetes and obesity, both of which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. That fibre may be protective of cardiovascular disease has been known for many decades, and this is the basis of the recommendation to consume most starch from whole grain sources, which in turn provides accessory quantities of dietary fibre. A number of studies have investigated the association between dietary fibre and cardiovascular disease and shown associations between low fibre intakes and an increased risk of various forms of cardiovascular disease. In one recent study for example, researchers investigated the association between dietary fibre and stroke risk in Swedish adults.
In the study1 researchers analysed 69,677 subjects from the Swedish Mammography Cohort and the Cohort of Swedish Men studies who were free from disease. They then assessed the diets of the subjects through use of a food frequency questionnaire, and followed up on the subjects about 10 years later. At this point they analysed the number of subjects that had medically reported cases of stroke and use regression statistics to ascertain any association with dietary fibre. The result of the study showed that those with the lowest intake of fibre, lowest intake of fruit fibre, lowest intake of vegetable fibre and lowest intake of cereal fibre had significantly high rates of stroke than those in the highest intake of these groups. Therefore dietary fibre is associated with a significant protective effect against stroke. It is never possible to attribute cause and effect in epidemiological studies, but taken with other studies, these results support the contention that low fibre diets increase the risk of disease significantly.