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Six Health Risks of Eating Too Little Fiber

Fitday Editor

Fiber is an essential part of any diet. It is important to consume enough fiber on a daily basis to maintain health and vitality. Unfortunately, most Americans don't even come close to the 20 to 25 grams of fiber per day recommended by the American Dietetic Association. Although fiber can be added to the diet by taking supplements, it's best to obtain it by eating a healthy diet consisting of plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Here are 6 risks of not eating enough fiber:

1. Constipation

One of the first signs of a diet that is lacking sufficient fiber is constipation. Fiber helps to soften stools and move things along. Without enough fiber in the diet, stools become hard and the elimination process is slowed down.

2. High Blood Pressure

Fiber appears to have a large influence on blood pressure levels. Several studies suggest that high fiber intake can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

3. Diabetes

Fiber helps to regulate blood sugar. One study showed that people who consumed fiber from cereals and grains (averaging 16.6 grams per day) had a 27 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those that averaged 6.6 grams per day. The fiber obtained from fruits and vegetables did not seem to have the same effect. Though fruits and vegetables are very important to a healthy diet, this points to why we need a variety of foods for optimal health.

4. Cardiovascular Disease

A diet lacking adequate fiber can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. People who have diets lacking fiber have higher levels of C-reactive protein. High levels of C-reactive protein can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Fiber also has a cholesterol lowering benefit. Studies show that by increasing average daily fiber intake from 10 to 20 grams per day, the risk of dying from heart disease can be lowered by 19-27 percent.

5. Obesity

Fiber seems to slow down fat absorption. Stools from people eating a diet high in fiber have more fat in them than stools from those with minimal fiber in their diet. Those deficient in fiber may have a harder time controlling their weight.

6. Cancer

Inadequate fiber intake may increase the risk of developing colon cancer. Populations with high fiber consumption have a much lower incidence of developing this disease. One theory suggests that fiber prevents toxins from having an adverse effect on colon cells, by sweeping them out of the body before they have a chance to do damage. Fiber also has the ability to absorb bile acids as well as other possible irritants that could adversely affect the intestinal lining and lead to the development of cancer.

Preliminary studies show that fiber consumption may prove beneficial in preventing stomach and breast cancers. Fiber can bind with extra estrogen and toxins in the intestines and keep them from affecting susceptible tissues.

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