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How High Fiber Diets Protect against Diabetes and Obesity

Fermentable fibers such as cabbage, beans, and some fruits and vegetables increase satiety….

French and Swedish researchers fed one group of mice a diet high in fat and sugar but with no fiber, and fed another group of mice a diet high in fat and sugar but with added fiber. The mice that were given fiber were shown to have much lower rates of diabetes and obesity than the no-fiber group.

The study explains that these differences stem from the way fermentable fibers are digested. Fermentable fibers are digested by intestinal bacteria which turn them into short chain fatty acids such as butyrate and propionate. These fatty acids are then used by the intestinal walls to produce glucose. This glucose is then released into the intestinal blood vessels and stimulates the brain to activate a series of defenses which help increase the feeling of fullness, while increasing the resting metabolism, and reducing hepatic glucose production.

In order to further demonstrate the connection between the intestinal glucose production and protection against diabetes and obesity, researchers genetically disabled the intestinal glucose production of some of the mice and then fed them the same fiber-rich diet. It was discovered that when the intestinal glucose production was halted, the previously protective fiber diet no longer had any benefit, and many of the mice became obese or developed diabetes.

The results of this study suggest that a diet high in fermentable fibers such as cabbage, beans, and some fruits and vegetables could help protect against diabetes and obesity by stimulating the brain to produce signals to help moderate overeating and weight gain.

Practice Pearls:
  • Fermentable fibers increase intestinal glucose production which stimulates the brain to release signals that promote satiety and protect again diabetes and weight gain.
  • Mice which were fed a high sugar and fat diet without fiber supplementation gained much more weight than mice which were fed the same diet plus fiber.
  • Adding foods high in fermentable fiber such as beans and cabbage to your diet may have a protective effect against weight gain and diabetes. 

Cell, January 2014