Eating more fibre and whole grains contributes to lower rates of non-communicable diseases and reduced mortality

10 January 2019

Professor Jim Mann
Professor Jim Mann

A recent study, co-funded by the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge*, concludes that people who eat higher levels of dietary fibre and whole grains have lower rates of non-communicable diseases compared with those who eat less.

The study, published today in the prestigious international medical journal The Lancet, was co-authored by Professor Jim Mann, director of Healthier Lives, and Dr Lisa Te Morenga (Victoria University of Wellington), co-principal investigator, who will both be speaking at the Focus on Fibre and Food monitoring symposium in Dunedin next month alongside lead author Dr Andrew Reynolds (University of Otago) and co-author Professor John Cummings (University of Dundee).

Dr Lisa Te Morenga
Dr Lisa Te Morenga

“There is nothing new in the suggestion that fibre is good for us.  However the unique feature of this study relates to the fact that we examined a range of indicators of carbohydrate quality and the full spectrum of possible disease outcomes.   This identified dietary fibre as the most useful marker when choosing carbohydrate containing foods and enabled us to show that the benefits of dietary fibre were far greater than we had previously realised”, says Professor Mann.

The study found that there was a 15-30% decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality, and incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer when comparing people who eat the highest amount of fibre to those who eat the least. Eating fibre-rich foods was also associated with reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.

Dr Andrew Reynolds
Dr Andrew Reynolds

The research found that total death, and incidences of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer decreased by 5-27% for every 8g increase of dietary fibre eaten per day. Protection against stroke, and breast cancer also increased.

“Our research indicates we should have at least 25-29g of fibre from foods per day.  Practical ways to increase fibre intake is to base meals and snacks around whole grains, vegetables, pulses, and whole fruits”, says Dr Reynolds.

Professor Mann went on to add that “given that most of us eat less than 20g of dietary fibre each day, the translation of these findings into practice will involve quite substantial changes in our diets.”

Professor John Cummings
Emeritus Prof John Cummings

Related links:

Andrew Reynolds, Jim Mann, Lisa Te Morenga and John Cummings at the Focus on Fibre and Food Monitoring Symposium, February 2019

*This study was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Riddet Centre of Research Excellence, the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge, the University of Otago, and the Otago Southland Diabetes Research Trust. It was conducted by researchers from the University of Otago, the Riddet Centre of Research Excellence, and the University of Dundee.

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