If you're like most American adults, it might be time to reach for a piece of fruit, a plate of vegetables or a bowl of whole grains.
Only 7% of adults get enough fiber, a type of carbohydrate that passes through the body undigested and supports not only regular bowel movements, but also offers important health benefits.
Too little fiber is associated with a higher risk of both heart disease and diabetes.
An analysis of data from more than 14,600 U.S. adults who participated in a national health survey between 2013 and 2018 showed that 9% of women and 5% of men were getting the recommended daily amount of fiber.
"These findings should remind people to choose fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables to reduce their risk for heart disease," said lead author Derek Miketinas, an assistant professor at Texas Woman's University in Denton.
"For those with diabetes, it is especially important to eat enough fiber since they are at a greater risk for heart disease," Miketinas added.
Fiber intake was assessed using dietary questionnaires. Participants self-reported on their diabetes status, which was also assessed with hemoglobin A1c, or HbA1c, levels.
Researchers analyzed fiber intake from dietary sources only, not from supplements.
Health guidelines recommend eating 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed daily. Women should typically aim for 25 grams in a 2,000-calorie diet; men, for 38 grams in a 2,500-calorie diet. Those over age 50 can have lower targets.
But both men and women fell far short in this study: On average, women consumed 9.9 grams per 1,000 calories; men, 8.7 grams.
Both men and women with diabetes did slightly better, but still fell short of recommendations.
Getting enough fiber can be a matter of making different food choices, such as choosing a one cup serving of pearl barley with 6 grams of fiber instead of white rice with 2 grams.
Miketinas said the new findings can help inform future research into chronic disease prevention.
Past studies have suggested that dietary fiber can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation and help prevent diabetes, as well as improve blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.
"The results of this study can be used to identify relationships between dietary fiber intake and outcomes of interest like risk factors for heart disease," Miketinas said.
"In fact, our preliminary analysis suggests that higher dietary fiber intake in adults with diabetes is strongly associated with reductions in markers for heart and kidney disease," Miketinas said.
Miketinas was scheduled to present the findings this week at an online meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.More information
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers more tips on getting enough fiber.
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