After years of an unhealthy diet routine that consists of high-calorie snacks with virtually no nutritional benefit, it can be difficult for people with cardiovascular issues to adhere to a heart-healthy diet. A recent study out of the University of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England, found that heart disease patients who included dietary fiber or fiber-rich foods in their diet were able to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD).

Professor of Medicine at the University of California, Dr. Robert Baron, who was not involved with this study, said this study, “increases our confidence that benefits, as reflected by reduced cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease events, will in fact accrue with higher dietary fiber intakes." Dr. Baron admitted some people may find trouble with substituting whole grains into their diet but said the addition of dietary fiber "may turn out to be the most important nutrition recommendation of them all.”

Researchers from the British university analyzed literature pertaining to the relationship between dietary fiber or fiber-rich foods and heart disease risk factors. Data from the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Australia was gathered through six electronic databases. The study differentiated certain types of fiber intake such as insoluble, soluble, cereal, fruit, vegetable, and different kinds overall.

Increasing the intake of total, insoluble, fruit, and vegetable fiber was associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. However, soluble fiber effectively lowered the individual’s risk of cardiovascular heart disease, but not coronary heart disease. On the other hand, cereal fiber was able to curb the individual’s risk of coronary heart disease, but not cardiovascular disease.

When 7 grams of fiber was added to each day, the individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease significantly declined. "Diets high in fiber, specifically from cereal or vegetable sources, are significantly associated with lower risk of CHD and CVD and reflect recommendations to increase intake," the researchers noted.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the majority of people in the U.S. consume only half of the dietary fiber they require on a daily basis. The Institute of Medicine recommends women under the age 50 of take in 25 gram of fiber each day, while women over the age of 50 take in 21 grams each day. Men under the age of 50 should take in 38 grams per day, and men over the age of 50 should consume up to 38 grams each day.

Source: Burley V, Threapleton D. “Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMJ-British Medical Journal. 2013