Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Study Shows Fiber Alone May Not Lower Cholesterol

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Study Shows Fiber Alone May Not Lower Cholesterol

Article excerpt

In a blow to claims that oat bran and other sources of fiber stave off heart disease, a new study concludes that dietary fiber by itself may do nothing to lower artery-clogging cholesterol.

The researchers agreed that many people who adopt diets high in soluble fiber such as that found in oat bran may indeed see their cholesterol levels go down.

But the reason, they said, is probably that those people cut fat out of their diets to make room for high-fiber foodstuffs.

The scientists, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, found an identical cholesterol reduction of 7 percent to 8 percent from diets loaded with the equivalent quantity of muffins and other foods made from low-fiber, processed wheat, as from oat bran. Fiber is a largely undigestable component of most fruits, grains, and vegetables.

The findings come as Americans face heavy advertising for muffins, cereals, bread sticks, crisp bread, fruit and nut waffles, baking mixes, and even tortilla chips, that are made with oat bran and touted as routes to lower cholesterol and healthier hearts and arteries.

The advertising push follows publication of numerous scientific studies that seemed to find a link between soluble fiber and lowered cholesterol. Not only oat bran, but rice bran and psyllium seed, the main ingredient of such fiber-loaded laxatives as Metamucil, are being promoted for heart and vascular fitness.

Cholesterol contributes to accumulation of fatty deposits in arteries, including the arteries that nourish heart muscle. As evidence has accumulated that fiber seems to reduce cholesterol, one explanation has been that fiber binds with bile acids in the the digestive tract and interferes with absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream.

The new study that casts doubt on anti-cholesterol action of fiber is featured in the New England Journal of Medicine, the nation's leading medical forum.

The study diet, three ounces of oats daily, is equal to about three bowls of oat cereal daily.

The authors found that the effect of oat bran, if any exists, is so small that it ``is unlikely to be important in a practical sense'' because of side effects from so much fiber. …

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