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Nurses’ Health Study reveals benefits of fiber intake post-MI

Thursday May 1, 2014
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People who survive myocardial infarction have a greater chance of living longer if they increase their dietary intake of fiber, especially cereal fiber, according to data from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Those who ate the most fiber had a 25% lower chance of dying in the nine years after their MI compared with those who ate the least amount, researchers reported. Each 10-gram increase in daily fiber intake was associated with a 15% lower risk of dying over the nine-year follow-up period.

The researchers pointed out that with more people surviving MI, it will be increasingly important to find out what lifestyle steps they can take alongside their medication to improve their long-term health prospects.

Healthy people who have a high intake of dietary fiber have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, according to previous studies, but until now it has been unclear whether advising MI survivors to eat more fiber will improve their chances of living longer.

Researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study, comprising 121,700 female RNs, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study of 51,529 male health professionals. In both studies, participants completed detailed questionnaires on their lifestyle habits every two years.

The researchers used data from the 2,258 women and 1,840 men who survived a first MI during the course of the studies. They were followed for an average of almost nine years after their MI, during which time 682 of the women and 451 of the men died.

Participants were divided into quintiles according to how much fiber they ate after their MI. The top quintile had a 25% lower chance of dying from any cause during the nine years after their MI compared with the bottom quintile. When considering only cardiovascular causes of death (MI, stroke and coronary heart disease), the top quintile had a 13% lower mortality risk than the bottom quintile.

When the researchers looked at the three different fiber types — cereal, fruit and vegetable — only higher cereal fiber intake was strongly associated with an increased chance of long-term survival after an MI. Breakfast cereal was the main source of dietary fiber.

All the results were adjusted for other factors that might affect the chance of survival after an MI, including age, medical history and other dietary and lifestyle habits.

The researchers pointed out that MI survivors have a higher risk of dying than the general population and often are more motivated to make changes to their lifestyle — yet treatment to improve their chances of living longer generally neglects the importance of a healthier lifestyle in favor of long-term medication.

“Future research on lifestyle changes post-MI should focus on a combination of lifestyle changes and how they may further reduce mortality rates beyond what is achievable by medical management alone,” the researchers concluded.

Less than 5% of Americans consume the minimum recommended fiber intake of 25g per day for women and 38g per day for men, according to the news release.

Study (PDF): www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2659.pdf%2Bhtml


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