Reader B.D. posed this challenge to me this week: “I would appreciate your opinion as a dietitian on this article on dietary fiber.”
The article, “Does a high-fiber diet prevent disease?” written by Dr. Sebastian Rushworth — a junior physician in Stockholm, Sweden, who graduated from medical school in 2020 — challenges what he says is “the now widespread belief that dietary fiber is an important part of a healthy diet.”
Rushworth points out that observational data (studies on the reported habits of people) “find a correlation between a low-fiber diet and pretty much any chronic disease you care to look at. The randomized trials that have been done have however for the most part failed to show evidence of a benefit of increasing intake of dietary fiber.”
Nutrition knowledge is constantly evolving. And while the evidence this physician presented from 2016 and 2017 seems to question the health benefits of dietary fiber, there are now even more reasons to seriously keep this component in our diets.
One vital issue that has recently emerged in the field of nutrition is this: Studies on the effects of individual nutrients (such as dietary fiber) often don’t tell the whole story. That’s why nutrition professionals — including those who wrote the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 — now focus on dietary patterns rather than isolated nutrients.