Eating the right amount of fiber helps to avoid disease and disability into old age.
It is well known that a diet with adequate fiber assists in keeping people “regular.” Increased dietary fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes and has been shown to lower blood pressure. There is now evidence of a surprising additional benefit, discovered by the Australian researchers from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research. Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath, PhD, from the Institute's Centre for Vision Research compiled data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that examined a group of more than 1,600 adults, ages 50 years and older, for systemic diseases and long-term sensory loss risk factors. The researchers explored the relationship between carbohydrate nutrition and healthy aging. The factors they examined included total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index and load, and sugar intake. The fiber made the greatest difference in what the researchers called “successful aging”. They defined “successful aging” as including an absence of disability, cognitive impairment, depressive symptoms, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases including cancer coronary artery disease, and stroke.
According to the lead author of the paper, Gopinath, this study is the first to explore the relationship between carbohydrate intake and healthy aging, and the findings were significant enough to warrant further exploration. “Out of all the variables that we looked at, fiber intake -- which is a type of carbohydrate that the body can't digest -- had the strongest influence," she stated. "Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability."
Though there was likely an expectancy that the level of sugar intake would have the largest impact on successful aging, Gopinath pointed out that the particular group they studied were older adults, whose carbonated and sugary drink intake was fairly low. This study validates similar recent findings by the researchers, that emphasize the value of the overall diet and healthy aging.
Bamini Gopinath et al. Association Between Carbohydrate Nutrition and Successful Aging Over 10 Years. The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, May 2016 DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glw091