Fiber and weight loss

Does fiber help you lose weight?

Pawel Malczewski
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Short summary

Fiber in our diet can contribute to weight loss and weight control in various ways: it replaces high energy foods, increases satiety through chewing, through creating a bulk with water, through slowing down absorption of nutrients and fat, lowers insulin level through slowing down carbohydrate absorption and reduces inflammation which is correlated with obesity. For a quick answer click here.

Explanation

Specific fiber action that may contribute to weight loss

  1. Eating fibrous food replaces the high caloric foods.
    In comparison to others, higher energy compact forms of food, fiber has a higher volume to calorie ratio. Since the stomach has a limited capacity, the lower energy/higher volume food we eat the less high energy foods will fit. (read more..)
    High fiber intake encourages us to make healthy food choices and promotes low energy diets. (1)Burton-Freeman B. Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. J. Nutr. February 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 2 272S-275S. Available here. (2)Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39. Available here. (3)Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. June 20, 2004. Available here.
    Fiber provides some calories, however only in negligent amounts during the fermentation process in the colon. (4)Burton-Freeman B. Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. J. Nutr. February 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 2 272S-275S. Available here.
  2. Chewing may increase satiety.
    Fiber in the diet makes us chew more. Chewing makes us eat slower, promotes saliva and gastric juice secretion which results in an increased sensation of being full for longer periods of time. (5)Goldberg I, Williams R. Biotechnology and food ingredients. AVI. Edition 1991. Available here. (6)Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the academy of nutrition and dietetics. October 2008Volume 108, Issue 10, Pages 1716–1731 . Available here. (7)Slavin JL. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435. Available here.
  3. Bulk of fiber and water increases satiety.
    Bulk formed by a fiber and water combination creates the sensation of being fuller and is linked with lower body weight. (8)Goldberg I, Williams R. Biotechnology and food ingredients. AVI. Edition 1991. Available here. (9)Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the academy of nutrition and dietetics. October 2008Volume 108, Issue 10, Pages 1716–1731 . Available here. (10)Slavin JL. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435. Available here.
  4. Slows down absorption of nutrients.
    Viscous fibers form a gel like substance that slows down the digestion and absorption process of nutrients, specifically by delaying the release of food from the stomach to the intestine and transit within the small intestine. Viscous fiber mixes with food and digestive enzymes and interacts with the movement of carbohydrates and fats though the surface of mucosa in the intestine. (For more details on fiber types see article Fiber) (11)Burton-Freeman B. Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. J. Nutr. February 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 2 272S-275S. Available here. (12)Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. June 20, 2004. Available here. (13)Goldberg I, Williams R. Biotechnology and food ingredients. AVI. Edition 1991. Available here. (14)Slavin JL. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435. Available here. (15)Ludwig DS, Pereira MA, Kroenke CH, Hilner JE, Van Horn L, Slattery ML, Jacobs DR. Dietary Fiber, Weight Gain, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Young Adults. JAMA.October 27, 1999, Vol 282, No. 16. Available here.
  5. Slows down absorption of fat which leads to increase of satiation.
    Because it slows down fat absorption, there is increased fat in the intestines. The presence of extra fat in the small intestines for a prolonged period intensifies the feeling of satiety. In other words, if the fat is absorbed quickly, the feeling of satiety does not kick in until after we have had too much to eat. (16)Burton-Freeman B. Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. J. Nutr. February 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 2 272S-275S. Available here. (17)Salas-Salvadó J, Farrés X, Luque X, Narejos S, Borrell M, Basora J, Anguera A, Torres F, Bulló M, Balanza R. Effect of two doses of a mixture of soluble fibres on body weight and metabolic variables in overweight or obese patients: a randomised trial. Br J Nutr. 2008 Jun;99(6):1380-7. Epub 2007 Nov 22. Available here.
  6. Slows down absorption of carbohydrates which lowers insulin levels.
    Faster absorption of carbohydrates increases the insulin resistance which may lead to an increase of fat accumulation in fat cells. Fiber slows down carbohydrate absorption, and therefore, lowers the insulin levels in the blood. This is beneficial in improving insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of accumulating fat in the fat cells. (18)Ludwig DS, Pereira MA, Kroenke CH, Hilner JE, Van Horn L, Slattery ML, Jacobs DR. Dietary Fiber, Weight Gain, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Young Adults. JAMA.October 27, 1999, Vol 282, No. 16. Available here. (19)Salas-Salvadó J, Farrés X, Luque X, Narejos S, Borrell M, Basora J, Anguera A, Torres F, Bulló M, Balanza R. Effect of two doses of a mixture of soluble fibres on body weight and metabolic variables in overweight or obese patients: a randomised trial. Br J Nutr. 2008 Jun;99(6):1380-7. Epub 2007 Nov 22. Available here.
  7. Reduces inflammation which is linked with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
    Soluble fiber, also called prebiotic, feeds friendly intestinal bacteria responsible for a healthy intestinal environment. Bacteria digests the fiber producing short-chained fatty acids which in turn are used by colon cells, reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of inflammatory diseases. Chronic inflammation is associated with higher insulin resistance and leptin level (satiety level), resulting in weight gain, metabolic syndrome and obesity. (20)Slavin JL. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435. Available here. (21)Caesar R, Fåk F, Bäckhed F. Effects of gut microbiota on obesity and atherosclerosis via modulation of inflammation and lipid metabolism. J Intern Med. 2010 Oct;268(4):320-8. Available here.

General studies showing that fiber increases satiety and reduces hunger.

There are several studies showing a general association between dietary intake and weight loss or weight management. The main results of the studies are presented below.

  • Dietary and supplementary fiber increases a feeling of satiety and reduces hunger and energy intake. Systematic review of clinical trials show that increasing fiber intake by 14g per day for more than 2 days, decreases the amount of energy consumed by 10% and body loss of 1.9kg in a 3.8 month period.
  • By having a higher fiber diet, obese people have been shown to reduce their energy intake by 18% (around 2.4kg of body weight loss) and lean people by 6% (around 0.8kg of body weight loss).
  • Currently in the U.S., people consume on average 15g of fiber per day. Recommended levels are 25-30g/day. (22)Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39. Available here.
  • Epidemiological studies show that high fiber diets help in weight management by increased satiety, decreased absorption and altering the secretion of gut hormones. (23)Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. June 20, 2004. Available here.
  • A large study of 44 publications of epidemiological studies, which included 107 fiber treatments, showed that 39% of people observed significant reduction of appetite and 22% ate less while on fiber supplementation. The bulk of these studies have revealed that dietary fiber is associated with lower body weight. (24)Clark MJ, Slavin JL. The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: a systematic review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 32, Issue 3, 2013. Available here.
  • A 2010 prospective cohort study showed that high dietary fiber intake prevents an increase in body weight and waist circumference. (25)Du H, van der A DL, Boshuizen HC, Forouhi NG, Wareham NJ, Halkjaer J, et al. Dietary fiber and subsequent changes in body weight and waist circumference in European men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;91(2):329-36. Available here.
  • An intake of 20-27g per day of fiber from whole foods or 20g from supplements shows benefits in weight loss. (26)Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the academy of nutrition and dietetics. October 2008Volume 108, Issue 10, Pages 1716–1731 . Available here.
  • A 2011 systematic review of 61 controlled trials showed that viscous fibers, such as pectins, beta-glucans and guar gum, reduced appetite and overall energy intake more than non-viscous types. Overall, the study found, however, that the energy intake has not decreased significantly and the effects on body weight loss were small. (27)Wanders AJ, van den Borne JJ, de Graaf C, Hulshof T, Jonathan MC, Kristensen M, et al. Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2011 Sep;12(9):724-39. Available here.

Conclusion

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Dietary fiber is not a magic solution for weight loss. However, it makes an important contribution in weight loss/control and overall good health. It contributes to weight loss through various actions and it should be used as a part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

References   [ + ]

1. Burton-Freeman B. Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. J. Nutr. February 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 2 272S-275S. Available here.
2. Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39. Available here.
3. Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. June 20, 2004. Available here.
4. Burton-Freeman B. Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. J. Nutr. February 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 2 272S-275S. Available here.
5. Goldberg I, Williams R. Biotechnology and food ingredients. AVI. Edition 1991. Available here.
6. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the academy of nutrition and dietetics. October 2008Volume 108, Issue 10, Pages 1716–1731 . Available here.
7. Slavin JL. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435. Available here.
8. Goldberg I, Williams R. Biotechnology and food ingredients. AVI. Edition 1991. Available here.
9. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the academy of nutrition and dietetics. October 2008Volume 108, Issue 10, Pages 1716–1731 . Available here.
10. Slavin JL. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435. Available here.
11. Burton-Freeman B. Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. J. Nutr. February 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 2 272S-275S. Available here.
12. Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. June 20, 2004. Available here.
13. Goldberg I, Williams R. Biotechnology and food ingredients. AVI. Edition 1991. Available here.
14. Slavin JL. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435. Available here.
15. Ludwig DS, Pereira MA, Kroenke CH, Hilner JE, Van Horn L, Slattery ML, Jacobs DR. Dietary Fiber, Weight Gain, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Young Adults. JAMA.October 27, 1999, Vol 282, No. 16. Available here.
16. Burton-Freeman B. Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation. J. Nutr. February 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 2 272S-275S. Available here.
17. Salas-Salvadó J, Farrés X, Luque X, Narejos S, Borrell M, Basora J, Anguera A, Torres F, Bulló M, Balanza R. Effect of two doses of a mixture of soluble fibres on body weight and metabolic variables in overweight or obese patients: a randomised trial. Br J Nutr. 2008 Jun;99(6):1380-7. Epub 2007 Nov 22. Available here.
18. Ludwig DS, Pereira MA, Kroenke CH, Hilner JE, Van Horn L, Slattery ML, Jacobs DR. Dietary Fiber, Weight Gain, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Young Adults. JAMA.October 27, 1999, Vol 282, No. 16. Available here.
19. Salas-Salvadó J, Farrés X, Luque X, Narejos S, Borrell M, Basora J, Anguera A, Torres F, Bulló M, Balanza R. Effect of two doses of a mixture of soluble fibres on body weight and metabolic variables in overweight or obese patients: a randomised trial. Br J Nutr. 2008 Jun;99(6):1380-7. Epub 2007 Nov 22. Available here.
20. Slavin JL. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435. Available here.
21. Caesar R, Fåk F, Bäckhed F. Effects of gut microbiota on obesity and atherosclerosis via modulation of inflammation and lipid metabolism. J Intern Med. 2010 Oct;268(4):320-8. Available here.
22. Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39. Available here.
23. Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. June 20, 2004. Available here.
24. Clark MJ, Slavin JL. The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: a systematic review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 32, Issue 3, 2013. Available here.
25. Du H, van der A DL, Boshuizen HC, Forouhi NG, Wareham NJ, Halkjaer J, et al. Dietary fiber and subsequent changes in body weight and waist circumference in European men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;91(2):329-36. Available here.
26. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the academy of nutrition and dietetics. October 2008Volume 108, Issue 10, Pages 1716–1731 . Available here.
27. Wanders AJ, van den Borne JJ, de Graaf C, Hulshof T, Jonathan MC, Kristensen M, et al. Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2011 Sep;12(9):724-39. Available here.

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