STUDY ANALYZES LINK BETWEEN DIETARY FIBER AND C-REACTIVE PROTEIN, A PREDICTOR OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES AND DIABETES 
Results suggests a high fiber diet could mediate cardiovascular disease and diabetes 

April 1, 2006 

WORCESTER, Mass. - Despite numerous studies touting its benefits, most Americans fail to eat the recommend daily amount of dietary fiber. And for many health professionals, the American diet's increasing reliance on refined and processed foods deficient in fiber, as well as the rise in diabetes and heart disease across the United States, is no coincidence.  Now, a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, led by Assistant Professor of Medicine Yunsheng Ma, MD, PhD, has found that a high-fiber diet may decrease levels of a marker of inflammation called C-reactive protein, previously demonstrated to be a predictor of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Intake of a diet rich in fiber has been found to help reduce one's cardiovascular disease risk and control diabetes. C-reactive protein (CRP), produced by the liver during inflammation or infection, has been recently recognized as an independent predictor of future cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Interestingly, fiber intake is associated with decreased oxidation of lipids, which in turn is associated with decreased inflammation, a potential correlation between fiber and CRP noted by Dr. Ma and colleagues.

The results of the study, published in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, were based on data gathered between the years 1994 and 1998 through the Seasonal Variation of Blood Cholesterol study conducted by Ira S. Ockene, MD, the David J. and Barbara D. Milliken Professor of Preventive Cardiology and professor of medicine at UMass Medical School. The participants ranged in age from 20 to 70 and were predominantly white and overweight.  Both genders were equally represented in the study group, which included participants from a range of socioeconomic levels. A widely used dietary assessment method in which each participant reported what he or she had eaten and what physical activity he or she had engaged in during the previous 24 hours was also used over the course of a year, collected quarterly on randomly chosen days.

From the results gathered, the scientists observed an inverse association between intake of total dietary fiber and CRP concentrations in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis; in other words, the adults who consumed a low-fiber diet had elevated CRP as compared to those who consumed more fiber. In fact, those participants in the highest quartile (25 percent) of fiber intake were 63 percent less likely to have elevated CRP concentrations than those in the lowest quartile of fiber intake. Similar results were observed for soluble and insoluble fiber as well.

In light of their findings, Dr. Ma suggests that dietary fiber may be protective against high CRP, lending support to current recommendations promoting a high-fiber diet. "Given the strong evidence that CRP is associated with risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, this study suggests that a high-fiber diet may help reduce inflammation and thus the risk of these diseases.  Even a small but consistent increase in the overall dietary fiber intake can make a large difference to the future of our public health with regards to these chronic diseases."

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $174 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information visit www.umassmed.edu 

Contact: Kelly Bishop, 508-856-2000