Diet: Dietary fiber protects against diabetes

Diet: Dietary fiber protects against diabetes

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The power of insoluble fiber

Numerous scientific studies have been carried out in recent years that have shown how healthy fiber is for humans. Not only do they help to stimulate digestion, they also counteract chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. In particular, a diet with lots of insoluble fiber should protect.

Insoluble fiber works - but not the same for everyone. As an international research team shows, it is important to know the metabolic status of a patient more precisely in order to be able to give optimal nutritional recommendations. The individually adapted diet could be particularly useful for the prevention of type 2 diabetes, but also for other diseases.

Counteract chronic diseases

As the German Institute for Nutritional Research Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE) reports in a communication, more than six million people with type 2 diabetes live in Germany - and the trend is rising. Long-term complications can massively reduce the quality of life and lead to premature death.

Eating behavior, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors are considered to be key to influencing the outbreak and development of the metabolic disorder. In particular, a diet with lots of insoluble fiber - primarily from whole grains - should protect. This is the conclusion of several large epidemiological observational studies.

For example, researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand, evaluating 185 observational studies and the results of 58 clinical examinations with over 4,600 participants found that people who eat plenty of fiber and whole grains counteract chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus can. The results were published in "The Lancet".

But people who eat a lot of whole grain products often live healthier overall, according to the DIfE. So it was previously unclear whether the positive effects actually come from the indigestible plant fibers.

Insoluble fiber affects blood sugar

The DIfE scientist Dr. Stefan Kabisch and his team wanted to understand exactly whether and how insoluble fiber can protect against type 2 diabetes. To do this, they carried out a randomized study, the "Optimal Fiber Trial for Diabetes Prevention", or OptiFiT study for short. The study results were recently published in the journal "Nutrients".

"The results indicate that insoluble fiber actually works: on blood sugar and possibly also on other metabolic construction sites," explains Dr. Kabisch, director of studies and research assistant in the Clinical Nutrition / DZD working group at DIfE.

Through previous analyzes of the OptiFiT study, the researchers found that insoluble fiber had a positive effect on long-term blood sugar, among other things.

“The data from the current studies now show that there are subgroups of patients who benefit most from the fiber. In particular, test subjects with an additionally increased fasting sugar improved their glucose tolerance and those suffering from obesity their inflammatory values ​​if they were in the fiber group, ”says Kabisch.

Methodically high-quality study

Between March 2010 and October 2012, a total of 180 subjects with a preliminary stage of type 2 diabetes took part in the OptiFiT study. The participants received identical nutritional advice and were divided into two groups.

For two years, the first group received twice insoluble, oat-based fiber in the form of a drinking powder. The second group only received a placebo, i.e. a drinking supplement without fiber.

In order to be able to assess whether there really was an improvement in the metabolism, the scientists carried out blood sugar exposure tests. As a so-called blinded study, neither test subjects nor researchers knew who received which supplement.

“From a purely methodological point of view, this is a very high-quality study that can say fairly precisely whether it was really the insoluble fiber that had the positive effect,” explains the study doctor.

Especially those with fatty liver could benefit

The increased benefits of insoluble fiber for people with conspicuous fasting sugar may indicate that patients with fatty liver in particular could benefit from the treatment.

“Prediabetics with high fasting sugar often have fatty liver. Patients without fatty liver may not benefit so much from a high-fiber diet, ”says Dr. Stefan Kabisch. However, since not all participants in the OptiFiT study carried out a fatty liver measurement, only the interpretation of this detour remains.

Prediabetics with increased fasting sugar are also overweight than those with normal fasting sugar. However, according to the new evaluation of the OptiFiT study, being overweight does not explain the particular advantage of prediabetics with increased fasting sugar.

“The added benefit with regard to the inflammatory processes in obese people is an independent advantage. The new analyzes therefore provide an important impulse in the direction of individualized nutritional therapy, ”explains Kabisch.

In the next step, the researchers want to use the data from the OptiFiT study for analyzes of certain biomarkers that are related to fatty liver and the observed metabolic improvement.

The aim is to be able to predict who will respond to which food components and how. In addition, there should be follow-up studies with new subjects who confirm the current results.

Easily increase fiber consumption

A high-fiber diet is not only recommended for the prevention of diabetes, but also for people who suffer from the metabolic disorder. Because fiber improves sugar metabolism, lowers cholesterol, promotes digestion and long satiates.

According to the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society (DGE), people with healthy metabolism should consume at least 30 grams of fiber every day. People with diabetes are recommended 40 grams. However, many people find it difficult to achieve these guidelines.

"With lots of fruit, vegetables and legumes, fiber consumption can be easily increased," explains Harald Seitz, nutritionist from the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE) in a message.

"For cereal products such as bread, pasta and rice, go for the whole grain variant more often," says the expert. "The somewhat tart taste of wholemeal pasta, for example, is only somewhat unusual at the beginning." (Ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • German Institute for Nutritional Research Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE): The Power of Insoluble Fiber, (accessed: December 10, 2019), German Institute for Nutritional Research Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE)
  • Nutrients: Obesity Does Not Modulate the Glycometabolic Benefit of Insoluble Cereal Fiber in Subjects with Prediabetes — A Stratified Post Hoc Analysis of the Optimal Fiber Trial (OptiFiT), (accessed: December 10, 2019), Nutrients
  • The Lancet: Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyzes, (accessed: 10.12.2019), The Lancet
  • Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE): Chronic Diseases, (accessed: December 10, 2019), Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE)

Video: Preventing Pre-Diabetes (October 2022).