Ambroso, Amanda

Can fiber help you lose weight?
By: Amanda Ambroso

Fiber is an essential part of our digestive tract and it is a commonly discussed topic now with many new products on the market suggesting their added fibers benefit weight loss. However, do the high-fiber foods really help to lose weight? There are many debates as to whether or not eating a diet high in fiber helps one lose weight. I will address this issue by first presenting arguments for both sides of the dispute, providing correlations and misconceptions between weight loss and fiber-filled diets, and I will finally state whether eating a diet high (or low) in fiber can or cannot help you lose weight.

What is Fiber?
First and foremost, it is important to understand what exactly fiber is and what it does to our bodies. The Mayo Clinic website describes fiber as having many benefits to health including relieving constipation and also helping to maintain a healthy weight and lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease.1 There are two kinds of fiber: soluble (dissolves in water) and insoluble (doesn’t dissolve in water). Dissolvable fibers help to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels and insoluble fiber helps move food through the digestive tract, benefiting those who are constipated.

Fiber and Weight Loss: It Can Help
A diet high in fiber can help aid in achieving a healthy weight. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you're no longer hungry, so you're less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less "energy dense," which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.1 The University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition also agrees that diets high in fiber can help you lose weight and there are studies to prove it. The studies found links that dietary fiber intake preventing obesity is strong. Fiber intake is inversely associated with body weight and body fat. In addition, fiber intake is inversely associated with body mass index at all levels of fat intake after adjusting for confounding factors.2 The department concluded that a high fiber diet is necessary to put an end to the obesity epidemic along with other diet revisions and exercise, of course. Besides these two reputable source, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Byron J. Richards, tells the public in 2013 through his article titled “Fiber, Leptin, and Weight Loss” on Wellness Resources that obesity is at epidemic levels in America, partly due to the lack of fiber in the American diet. Both insoluble and soluble fibers help you feel fuller, so that you don’t want to eat as much food. Insoluble fiber tends to promote bowels to move along, the bulk or size of stools, and ease of bowel movements (reducing constipation and hemorrhoids). 3

Fiber Misunderstandings:
However, when most people think that fiber helps them lose weight, they are thinking that it moves their stool out of their body quicker, thus making them not actually get the same amount of calories they just ingested. This is false. Fiber alone cannot make you lose weight. It can, in fact, make you feel fuller longer, but alone, it does not eliminate the calories you just devoured. Your body still absorbs all the nutrients and calories from the food you ate, which is the reason the ‘leftovers’ are made into stool to be excreted from the body.

Fiber and Constipation
It is true that fiber can help rid the body of constipation by speeding up the digestive tract. Contrary to this, too much fiber can actually cause constipation (or diarrhea). There is an optimum level for each person. A diet high in fiber can actually cause the bowel to slow down its processes, causing a backup and slower digestion. You need to find the balance between too much fiber and too little to receive the full health benefits and weight management assistance. 1

Is Fiber a Weight-loss Aide?
Mayo clinic and University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition, both reputable sources, say that fiber can help maintain weight.1,2 Their reasoning and studies support the topic of why eating more slowly and consciously can help you lose weight and why high-fiber diets essentially help you lose weight. Their claim that it can help a person lose weight is true; however it is definitely not the sole factor to losing excess poundage and is not the reason for peoples’ weight loss successes directly. Indirectly, fiber can help you lose weight by decreasing overall food intake and thus providing weight loss and promoting satiation but the falsehood that fiber itself cleans out your system and makes you lose weight is not true. 1,2,3,4 The stool being cleaned from your digestive tract has already been absorbed (this includes the nutrients AND the calories). So, if you eat a 2,000 calorie meal and decide to consume large amounts of fiber supplements to poop out the food so you aren’t getting as many calories, you will still be absorbing those and may even become constipated, as too much fiber can have the adverse effect on the bowels. It is essential you get the right amount of fiber in your diet to avoid both constipation and diarrhea. Refer to the table below as a guide and see your health care professional for more information as to the right amount of fiber per day you should be consuming.5 You can also consult the US Food Guide Pyramid for more help on overall nutritional aspects of your meals, which is also displayed below. 6

Age 50 or younger
Age 51 or older
Men
38 grams
30 grams
Women
25 grams
21 grams

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Summary: How Do I Lose Weight?
So, how do you lose weight? The answer is plain and simple: eat less and workout more. Fiber is an essential part of our diet to ensure our bowels are moving waste through properly, however it will not ‘make you lose weight.’ It may make you feel fuller longer and allow you to become more health conscious, but it will not make you lose weight on its own. Adding fiber to your diet will increases your chances of successfully keeping off the pounds by making you feel satiated, so it is a must to live a healthy lifestyle, but exercise and monitoring of fiber and all other aspects of your diet are the sure way to lose weight. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor, nutritionist, or other health care professional before increasing or decreasing your fiber intake to make sure you still fall within your recommended daily intake. Keep in mind, to support weight management, it is recommended you consume 35-50 grams per day and the American Cancer Society recommends 20-35 grams per day. 3 Most Americans fall well below this amount at a mere 15 grams per day. 7 Eat your fiber, but do not expect it to lower the scale’s numbers alone.

Reference
1. Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983?pg=1 Mayo Clinic Web site. Published November 17, 2012. Accessed June 2014.
2. Slavin, JL. Dietary Fiber and Body Weight. PubMed-Indexed for MEDLIN [15797686]. March 2005; 21(3):411-8. Available from: PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE with Full Text, Bethesda, MD. Accessed June 5, 2014.
3. Fiber, Leptin, and Weight Loss. Wellness Resources Web site. http://www.wellnessresources.com/weight_tips/articles/fiber_leptin_and_weight_loss/ Published April 10, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2014.
4. High-fiber Diets and Weight Loss. WebMD Web site. http://www.webmd.com/diet/fiber-health-benefits-11/fiber-weight-control Published: 2005. Updated 2014. Accessed June 2014.
5. In: Mayo Clinic Staff. Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet [Mayo Clinic]. Institute of Medicine; 2012.
6. MyPlate Graphic resources [MyPlate.gov]. United States Department of Agriculture.
7. Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2008;108, (10):1716-1731. http://www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=8355&terms=fiber Accessed June 5, 2014.



The first site I will be using to answer the question "Can fiber help me lose weight" is http://www.webmd.com/diet/fiber-health-benefits-11/fiber-weight-control . I am choosing this site because it is a site with professional input that is nonbiased simply stating the facts about the topic without trying to sway readers one way or the other. The second source I will be utilizing is http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/nutrition/fiber-the-new-fat-fighter/ because it really shows how the market has changed over the years to advertise foods high in fiber as being the best option you could have. A third source I am planning on using is http://www.livestrong.com/article/313598-why-does-fruit-fiber-make-me-gain-weight/ because it takes the other side of things showing us the opposing standpoint. The fourth article I will use is http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/can-eating-large-quantities-fiber-lose-weight-7486.html because instead of stating whether or not people should be consuming large quantities of fiber or small amounts of it, they tell why it should be consumed in moderation, just as most minerals and supplements should be. I really like the point it makes to consume fiber, but not too much. The fifth online site I found for this project is written by a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist who deciphers the differences between water-soluble and water-insoluble fibers. http://www.wellnessresources.com/weight_tips/articles/fiber_leptin_and_weight_loss/ also includes studies done on fiber-filled foods. And finally, a last source I will use is my mother, who works for a Gastroenterologist, who deals with diets high/low in fiber every day of the week. She knows a lot about fiber and its benefits and can help decipher truth and fiction in the articles I found online persuading the two viewpoints. I was unable to find any patient testimonials or studies done on people on high or low fiber diets, possibly due to confusion between the variables-weight-loss, the fiber consumed, and other lifestyle choices either aiding in weight-loss or weight gain. However, I am planning to talk to my mother about the subject more to see if any of their patients have had weight-loss/gain stories from increasing their fiber intake or any other stories involving fiber and weight.



Based on my signup to answer the question "Can fiber help me lose weight," I have chosen to focus my Consumer Fact Sheet on proving whether or not fiber can or cannot help you lose weight. I will give arguments both for and against the theory that it can and then prove which theory is most correct.
I chose this topic because fiber is an essential part of our digestive tract and it is a commonly discussed topic now with many new products on the market suggesting their added fibers helps people lose weight.
Some potential areas of interest I may incluse are fiber bar nutrition facts, different theories out there, and doctors' and real life consumers' testimonials.