Research reveals how to cut your risk of a heart attack

Research finds the key to a reduced incidence of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.


The Christmas/New Year ‘throw-diets-to-the-wind’ extravaganza is over and a landmark World Health Organisation (WHO) review offers a timely guide to what next.

Research has found the key to a reduced incidence of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and other chronic diseases. And the findings will form the basis for WHO guidelines.

In a nutshell (pun intended), fashionable low-carb diets are out and fibre – think wholegrain cereals, pastas and bread and nuts and pulses – is in.

Professor Jim Mann, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, said that the research provided very strong evidence that a high-fibre diet had an enormous protective effect on a wide range of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The research, conducted over 40 years and reported in The Lancet, found significant health benefits from eating at least 25 to 29 grams or more of dietary fibre a day and preferably 30-plus grams.

“The results suggest a 15–30 per cent decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality when comparing people who eat the highest amount of fibre to those who eat the least,” it says. “Eating fibre-rich foods also reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer by 16–24 per cent. Per 1000 participants, the impact translates into 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease.”

It also said that increasing fibre intake was associated with lower bodyweight and cholesterol, compared with lower intakes.

Worldwide, most people consume less than 20 grams of dietary fibre per day.

The median fibre intake for Australian adults was 20.7 grams. Only 28.2 per cent meet the adequate intake target and less than 20 per cent meet the suggested target. In the UK, only nine per cent of adults reach the 30 grams target, and in the US, fibre intake among adults averages 15 grams per day.

“Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fibre and on replacing refined grains with whole grains. This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases,” said Professor Mann.

The review found that for an eight-gram increase in dietary fibre eaten per day, total deaths and incidences of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer decreased by five to 27 per cent. Protection against stroke and breast cancer also increased.

John Cummings, emeritus professor of experimental gastroenterology at the University of Dundee and one of the authors of the review, said: “This is the end of 50 years of researching dietary fibre. It is a defining moment. We now know that fibre does things in the body which give us a credible explanation for how this works.”

The authors noted that while the study did not show any risks associated with dietary fibre, high intakes might have ill effects for people with low iron or mineral levels as high levels of whole grains can further reduce iron levels.

The Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel emphasises that fibre is particularly important for older people because the digestive system slows with age.

It offers the following information to gauge your fibre intake:

  • 2 whole wheat cereal biscuits (for example Weetbix or Vita Brits): 3.2g
  • 4 slices wholegrain bread: 5.7g
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter: 2.7g
  • 2 pieces of fruit (apple and pear): 4.9g
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables: 8.6g
  • 1 small boiled potato with skin (100g): 2.8g
  • 1 cup white cooked spaghetti: 2.5g
  • 2 wholemeal dry biscuits: 1.5g
  • 25 almonds: 3g
  • 1 cup whole fruit juice: 0.5g.

Are you confident your diet contains enough fibre? Do you shun white breads and rice for brown or wholemeal?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Dave R
    15th Jan 2019
    As fibre helps keep you regular and acts like a broom inside your gut it's not surprising that it helps keep you healthy. We bathe regularly to keep the outside of our bodies clean and reduce the incidence of skin and other diseases so the same should apply to the inside of our bodies.
    invisible sock
    15th Jan 2019
    I think getting plenty of sleep is also very important.
    And, you have to be careful eating those wheatmeal type biscuits, because they can pull the fillings out of your teeth.
    15th Jan 2019
    A healthy diet will reduce any physical issue along with exercise and good sleep Also drinking more water cleanses out the system
    15th Jan 2019

    This is not news. We've known this for decades!
    15th Jan 2019
    Agreed. It's not new. I can remember back at least 30 years ago discussing fibre intake with my Dr. He checked that everyone was trying to do the right thing.
    Some NEW news would be nice for a change.
    Karl Marx
    15th Jan 2019
    Article is nothing new. Everyone knows a good diet, portion control & exercise (even just walking) is best for good health & being & will reduce a lot of medical issues.
    Also don't associate with negative people or keep them a minimum, be happy, smile a lot to reduce your stress.
    15th Jan 2019
    There are better ways to get your fibre apart from grains, bread and pasta. I went to a dietician and she put me on this very same diet and I gained 5kg in a month.
    15th Jan 2019
    Yes, we know all this, but food fads change and there are a lot of younger people out there who think eating masses of protein and fat with no carbs and just a couple of vegies per day is the way to go and I worry about the incidence of coronary disease in the future.
    16th Jan 2019
    Heart disease is already the #1 killer (USA) and obesity a national health problem. A lot of young smart people are already changing to whole plant based diets and it's becoming a billion dollar enterprise, and of course, worrying the heavily funded meat, dairy and poultry industries. The egg board for one was heavily fined for deceptive advertising. Good to see. The facts about nutrition are out there... but the western life style makes it easier to pig out on fast food and soda.
    17th Jan 2019
    High fat low carb is very dangerous, will see all these young people end up with serious health issues.

    I agree with you Nose Hair Bob.
    17th Jan 2019
    It might not be nothing new but the messages are not getting through to some people so it needs to be repeated often. Most people eat too much meat which has no fiber. Eating more grain is not the answer, eating more fruit and vegetables is, especially adding some raw. Biscuits, bread and cereals should be kept to a minimum. Processed foods need to be kept to a minimum or cut out all together. Plant based diet is the answer to reverse disease and increase good health. Please read the success stories at

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