Fiber Helps Women's Hearts

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday finds that a diet high in fiber, especially breakfast cereals, can cut the risk of heart disease
in women. CBS This Morning Health Contributor Dr. Dave Hnida of CBS station KCNC-TV in Denver reports.

Researchers looked at the effects of different kinds of fiber on 68,000 healthy female nurses between the ages of 37 and 64 over a period of 10 years. Their findings suggested that breakfast cereal provided the most significant benefit and also found that the more you eat, the better it is for your heart.

According to the study, dietary fiber can significantly decrease the risk of heart attacks by improving cholesterol levels, lowering blood sugar, boosting sensitivity to insulin and lowering the risk of blood clotting.

Women in the highest fiber group ate about 22 grams per day and had a 47 percent lower risk of heart disease than women in the lowest group, who consumed about 11 grams of fiber a day. Eleven grams of fiber is currently the amount of fiber the average American woman eats each day.

"For every five-gram increase in fiber -- which is equal to a bowl of cereal per day -- the risk of heart disease was reduced by more than 30 percent," JoAnn Manson, the author of the study and an endocrinologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston told the Associated Press.

"Having a whole-grain cereal, with skim milk and a piece of fruit, is almost the perfect breakfast," Manson said. "Of course, it's not a magic bullet. But there is increasing evidence that diet and lifestyle factors play a major role in a person's health."

Although cereal is the best form of fiber, generally it takes more than two cups of high-fiber cereal every morning to get 23 grams' worth. Dr. Hnida suggests eating a regular-sized bowl of cereal, then adding more fiber in the form of fruit such as bananas, apples, raisins and berries. Whole-grain toast is a good fiber source, as are leafy salads.

Although many women take fiber pills to supplement their diets, they don't contain as much fiber as one might think, says Dr. Hnida. The best bet is to get it in the form of natural foods.

When shopping for high-fiber food products such as bran flakes, always check the label to see how much - or how little - fiber they provide.