What is dietary fiber?
Natural fibers are produced by plants, animals as well as through certain geological processes. However, the only kind of fiber that is deemed to be eatable by humans is that which is produced by plants. Dietary fiber (roughage) is that part of a plant which is indigestible by the human gut. It can either be soluble or insoluble, depending upon the following characteristics:
- Soluble fiber: it quickly gets fermented into gasses in the colon
- Insoluble fiber: it cannot be dissolved in the gut and hence, adds bulk to the food. This promotes gut mobility and easy defecation
Where can you find fiber?
It’s not so difficult to get access to dietary fiber for your meals daily. Every fruit and vegetable are comprised of these nutrients. The cell wall component of a plant cell is indigestible by humans, and this is what we refer dietary fiber to. Wheat, barley, rice, cereals, oat, corn, legumes, bananas, apples, chicory, etc. all of this food contain various types of fiber, both of the soluble and insoluble types.
How does dietary fiber help in preventing colon cancer?
Fiber forms a vital part of the diet as well as an important element in the maintenance of health since it helps in preventing the development of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The National Cancer Institute has also announced that taking 35g of fiber daily can reduce your risks of developing cancer of the mouth, esophagus, breast, stomach, prostate, and colon, because of its ability to absorb toxins that can trigger cancer growth.
Insoluble fiber, in particular, plays a role in coordinating the movement of stool through the system, presumably making it helpful in warding off colon cancer. This presumption is theoretically plausible for some reasons. Since insoluble fiber is not digested in the stomach and it does not dissolve in water, it adds bulk to the stool and speeds up its passage, which then results in lower concentrations of cancer-causing toxins in the colon. In effect, unwanted substances can be flushed out from the system with the help of fiber-rich foods.
The results of a large-scale study that were published in the New England Journal of Medicine found only a negligible association between high fiber consumption and a lowered risk of colon cancer. This runs contrary to the results of a larger study, which indicated that the consumption of 30g fiber each day leads to a 25 to 40 percent decrease in colon cancer risk. The discrepancy in these findings may be because, in the former study, which showed neutral effects of fiber on cancer, fiber supplements were administered to the subjects while the study showing positive results surveyed those who had obtained fiber from natural Sources.
Fiber supplements are quite common and can be readily purchased in a health shop without a prescription. However, natural sources of fiber are also abundant. These include fruits such as apples, bananas, berries, oranges, prunes, and pears, as well as vegetables such as beans, carrots, eggplants, mushrooms, potatoes, and pumpkins. By regularly taking supplements and consuming sufficient amounts of these fruits and vegetables, you can easily incorporate fiber into your diet.
There are indeed many factors that can lead to the development of colon cancer, and while fiber has the beneficial effect of diluting carcinogens in the system, it still cannot totally curb the occurrence of cancer. There are several other essential components; that should be taken along in diet with fiber actually to prevent colon cancer. However, it is not advisable to neglect the importance of this substance, as it can prevent other conditions like constipation, which can be a precursor to colon cancer.
Dietary fiber and breast cancer:
Scientific studies have revealed that fiber in the diet can also protect one from breast cancer. (Ferguson LR, Harris PJ. Protection against cancer by wheat bran: the role of dietary fiber and phytochemicals. Eur J Cancer Prev. 1999;8:17-25 AND Slavin JL, Martini MC, Jacobs DR Jr, et al. Plausible mechanisms for the protectiveness of whole grains. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70:459S-463S).
Such a medicinal effect is mainly observed with the consumption of barley and wheat. Fiber-rich foods are low in fat, and dietary fat is one of the reasons behind the development of breast cancer.
Let’s sum up:
Despite the fact that it has not been proven on solid grounds whether fiber in the diet helps in preventing colorectal cancer. However, scientific observation reveals that such individuals who consume more fiber live healthier and disease-free for longer periods.
The story is quite simple. Fiber collects the cell-harming toxic substances from blood such as free radical species and various other toxins and eliminates them from the body. Radical species have been shown to disturb normal cellular metabolism and are important causative agents of cancer. When the body is cleansed from such cancer-favoring entities, the likelihood of the disease consequently decreases.