Low-fiber diet puts adolescents at higher risk of cardiovascular disease

June 1, 2012
Adolescents who don't eat enough fiber tend to have bigger bellies and higher levels of inflammatory factors in their blood, both major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, researchers report. Credit: Phil Jones, GHSU Photographer

Adolescents who don't eat enough fiber tend to have bigger bellies and higher levels of inflammatory factors in their blood, both major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, researchers report.

The study of 559 adolescents age 14-18 from Augusta, Ga., showed they consumed on average about one-third of the daily recommended amount of fiber, said Dr. Norman Pollock, bone biologist at the Medical College of Georgia and the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Health Sciences University.

"The simple message is adolescents need to eat more fruits, vegetables and ," Pollock said. "We need to push recommendations to increase fiber intake." He and Dr. Samip Parikh, an internal medicine resident at GHS Health System, are co-first authors of the study in the Journal of Clinical . Only about 1 percent of the young participants consumed the recommended daily intake of 28 grams for females and 38 grams for males. The study appears the first to correlate dietary fiber intake with in adolescents.

Better understanding the relationships and risks of diet, inactivity and obesity in children and adolescents is particularly critical at a time when about 1 in 3 is overweight or obese, Parikh said. That's nearly triple the rate since 1963, according to the .

Low-fiber consumers in the study were more likely to have more of the visceral fat found in and around major organs in their . They also tended to have higher levels of inflammatory factors, such as called cytokines, as well as lower levels of protective adiponection, a protein secreted by fat that helps the body use glucose and fight inflammation. Interestingly, adiponectin levels tend to drop when fat becomes excessive and obesity is generally considered a chronic inflammatory state.

Exactly how fiber helps stave off some of these unhealthy consequences is not completely clear, Parikh said. Hypotheses include increased bulk in the stool causing digested food to spend less time in the gastrointestinal tract and the ability of fiber to improve insulin sensitivity, potentially reducing visceral adiposity. More indirectly, fiber tends to speed satiety, potentially decreasing total food and caloric consumption, Parikh said. It may also help absorb and eliminate inflammatory factors.

While belly fat and high inflammatory factors are inexorably linked to bad consequences such as heart disease and often occur together, one did not directly cause the other in this instance, Pollock noted. He was co-first author earlier this year of a study on the same group of adolescents that showed high-fructose consumption correlated with higher blood pressure, fasting glucose, insulin resistance and inflammatory factors as well as lower levels of cardiovascular protectors such as such as HDL cholesterol and adiponectin. These dangerous associations were exacerbated by belly fat. "There is some other mechanism (for increased inflammatory factors associated with low-fiber intake)," Pollock noted.

The scientists acknowledge getting adolescents to eat more fiber can be tough, not only because of their penchant for processed foods but because side effects can include intestinal gas, bloating and diarrhea. They are pursuing funding to develop more palatable forms of fiber that could be sprinkled, for example, on the low-fiber foods most adolescents regularly consume.

Study participants were part of a larger study assessing the relationship between activity and diet. The scientists noted that low-fiber intake also was linked to higher levels of overall body fat but only in females. A high-fiber diet seemed to reduce general body fat in males.

Explore further: High fructose consumption by adolescents may put them at cardiovascular risk

Related Stories

High fructose consumption by adolescents may put them at cardiovascular risk

January 24, 2012
Evidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk is present in the blood of adolescents who consume a lot of fructose, a scenario that worsens in the face of excess belly fat, researchers report.

More fiber, but not necessarily less fat, good for teen diets

November 10, 2011
A diet high in fiber – but not necessarily one low in saturated fat or cholesterol – is tied to a lower risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes in teenagers, according to new findings from Michigan State University.

Soluble fiber strikes a blow to belly fat

June 27, 2011
All fat is not created equal. Unsightly as it is, subcutaneous fat, the fat right under the skin, is not as dangerous to overall health as visceral fat, the fat deep in the belly surrounding vital organs.

Childhood diet lower in fat and higher in fiber may lower risk for chronic disease in adulthood

October 27, 2011
A recent study has found that a childhood behavioral intervention to lower dietary intake of total fat and saturated fat and increase consumption of foods that are good sources of dietary fiber resulted in significantly lower ...

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

One in five patients report discrimination in health care

December 14, 2017
Almost one in five older patients with a chronic disease reported experiencing health care discrimination of one type or another in a large national survey that asked about their daily experiences of discrimination between ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.