Fiber can help you lose weight, but only a specific type

Fiber is an important nutrient that is often overlooked.

In short, fiber refers to carbohydrates that your intestine can not digest.

It is classified as soluble or insoluble depending on whether it dissolves in water.

Insoluble fibers function primarily as bulking agents, adding content to your stool. In contrast, certain types of soluble fiber can significantly affect health and metabolism, as well as their weight (1).

This article explains how soluble fiber can promote weight loss.

Fiber weight loss

It is estimated that 100 billion bacteria live in your intestine, mainly in the large intestine (2).

Along with other microbes that are found in your digestive system, these bacteria are often called the intestinal flora or intestinal microbiome.

Different species of bacteria play important roles in various aspects of health, including weight control, blood sugar control, immunity, and even brain function (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

Like other organisms, bacteria need to eat well to stay healthy.

This is where soluble fiber, for the most part, intervenes. Soluble fiber passes through your digestive system almost unchanged, eventually reaching the friendly intestinal bacteria that digest it and convert it into usable energy.

The fiber that benefits your intestinal bacteria is known as prebiotic fiber or fermentable fiber. It is considered very beneficial for health and body weight (8, 9).

Certain insoluble fibers, such as resistant starch, also function as prebiotics.

Summary The fiber is not digested and tends to reach your large intestine relatively unchanged. There, certain soluble fibers help to nourish the intestinal bacteria that are essential for good health.

Good bacteria help fight inflammation

Intestinal bacteria are famous for their effect on chronic inflammation (10).

They produce nutrients for your body, including the short chain fatty acids that feed the cells in your colon.

This leads to a reduction of intestinal inflammation and improvements in the related inflammatory disorders (11, 12, 13).

Just to clarify, acute (short-term) inflammation is beneficial because it helps the body fight against foreign invaders and repair damaged cells.

However, chronic (long-term) inflammation is a serious problem because it can begin to fight the tissues of your own body.

Low-level chronic inflammation plays an important role in almost all chronic Western diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer's and metabolic syndrome (14, 15, 16).

There is also growing evidence that inflammation is associated with weight gain and obesity (17, 18, 10).

Several observational studies show that a high fiber intake is related to lower levels of inflammatory markers in the bloodstream (19, 20).

Summary Inflammation is associated with many lifestyle diseases, including obesity. The consumption of fiber has been linked to the reduction of inflammation.

Sources rich in viscous fiber

Viscous fibers are produced exclusively in plant foods.

Rich sources include beans and legumes, flax seeds, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and oats.

If you plan to switch to a high fiber diet, remember to do it gradually so that your body has time to adapt.

Abdominal discomfort, cramps and even diarrhea are common side effects if you increase your fiber intake too quickly.

Summary Viscous and soluble fiber is only found in plant foods. Whole plant foods, such as beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and oats are rich in viscous fiber.

Are fiber supplements effective for WeightLoss?

Fiber supplements are typically made by isolating the fiber from plants.

While these isolated fibers may have some health benefits, the evidence of weight control is mixed and unconvincing.

A very large review study found that psyllium and guar gum, both soluble and viscous fibers, are ineffective as weight-loss supplements (26).

A notable exception is glucomannan, a fiber extracted from the konjac root.

This incredibly viscous dietary fiber causes moderate weight loss when used as a supplement (27, 28, 29).

However, supplementation with isolated nutrients rarely makes much difference on its own.

To achieve the greatest impact, you must combine fiber supplements with other healthy weight loss strategies.

Although glucomannan and other soluble fiber supplements are a good option, it is better to focus your diet on whole plant foods.

Summary Fiber supplements are generally not effective in losing weight, with the exception of glucomannan. However, getting your fiber from whole plant foods is better than supplementing.

The bottom line

Eating more foods rich in fiber, especially viscous fiber, can be an effective strategy to lose weight.

However, like many methods of weight loss, it will not lead to long-term results unless you combine it with a lasting lifestyle change.

Keep in mind that fiber supplements are likely to have less impact on overall health than whole-fiber-rich foods.

Also, do not forget that health is not just about body weight. Eating a lot of fiber from real foods can have many other health benefits.

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