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Eating more fibre extends life for heart attack survivors

Heart attack survivors live longer if they have a high-fibre diet, according to a US study of thousands of health professionals.

Fibre in breakfast cereals in particular could help survivors of myocardial infarction live for longer, the research suggests.

The researchers looked at data from two large nutrition and lifestyle projects − the Nurses’ Health Study of 121,700 female nurses and the Health Professional Follow-up Study of 51,529 male health professionals.

From these groups, the study authors identified and examined more than 4,000 heart attack survivors over a nine-year follow-up period, during which 682 women and 451 men died.

“Participants who increased their dietary fibre intake after MI had lower long-term rates of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality”

Study authors

They divided the participants from the studies into five groups according to their fibre intake.

The group with the most fibre in their diets were found to have a 25% lower chance of dying when compared to those in the group with the lowest intake.

They also had a 13% decreased risk of dying from heart disease.

Every 10g per day increase in fibre was associated with a 15% lower risk of dying over the follow -up period, the researchers found.

When the authors examined the source of fibre − be it from fruit, vegetables or cereal − they found that higher cereal fibre consumption was associated with an increased chance of long-term survival after a heart attack than other sources of fibre.

“Greater intake of dietary fibre after myocardial infarction, especially cereal fibre, was inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality,” said the study authors from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“In addition, participants who increased their dietary fibre intake after MI had lower long-term rates of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality,” they said online in the BMJ.

“Possible mechanisms for the beneficial effects of a high-fibre diet on coronary heart disease risk and mortality include reductions in systemic inflammation, lower serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, reduced lipid peroxidation, improved insulin sensitivity, overall better glycemic control, and a beneficial gut microbiota environment.”

“We do know that, on average, we’re not getting enough fibre in our diets”

Victoria Taylor

The NHS says that most people in the UK get about 14g of fibre a day but they should be aiming for at least 18g.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “High-fibre foods are a key part of a healthy balanced diet and this study suggests they may have a particular benefit for heart attack survivors.

“We can’t say for sure what caused the fibre benefit seen here,” she said. “But we do know that, on average, we’re not getting enough fibre in our diets.”

She added: “To get more fibre, you can make simple swaps such as trading white bread for wholegrain versions or opting for higher fibre breakfast cereals like porridge or muesli.”

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