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Are fiber supplements BAD for you?

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Last week at work we had a health seminar where a speaker made the claim that fiber supplements are bad for you. She said that they do not act the way natural food fibers do in aiding the colon in its action, and even worse they actually absorb nutrients before the body can use them.

That is something I've never heard before. She had two PhDs in Nutrition; when I asked about the specifics of why supplemental fiber does not help, she didn't really answer my question- perhaps she thought the matter was too technical.

Can anyone confirm or deny her assertation that fiber supplements are bad for you?

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She makes a very good point.   Natural fibre is part of a whole food.... the entire apple, the complete potato, the wholegrain in a slice of bread.  So when you eat fibre in that form you're getting other things besides... vitamins, minerals, fluids etc..... and it's that that's keeping your digestion in good nick.   It's tough to overdo it on the fibre when you're eating a lot of naturally fibrous foods for the simple reason that they're very filling.

Fibre supplements & fibre enriched foods like some bran-based breakfast cereals on the other hand are really easy to go overboard on.  Fibre in isolation has no nutritional value - it's just wadding.  And yes, too much fibre in the diet and it can inhibit absorbtion of nutrients.

There are several articles about the work of Dr Goodlad in 2001 on the subject. 4/Benefits-of-a-high-fibre-diet-questioned-by -cancer-expert.html




Edited to say.... There's a term in use - 'nutritionism' and fibre is a good example of how it goes wrong.  Nutritionism means that sensible dietary advice gets dumbed down and oversimplified to ....  'this nutrient good, this nutrient bad'.   When it was found that diets low in fibrous foods were contributing to poor health the advice should have been 'eat more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains'...  Instead the advice emerged 'eat more fibre'... quite different.  So you get the situation where someone living on pork chops and doughnuts takes 40g of fibre in pill form and genuinely thinks they're now getting a healthy diet. Smile 

Honestly, if you have digestion issues in which you cannot GO for more than 2 days - supplementing with fiber would be the way to go (after upping your fiber through foods of course)... it's better to get things OUT then keep them in because if they stay in for long enough you risk getting divercolitis and other distressed problems in the colon & small intestine!

2 Replies