Most health-minded people are aware that fiber is good for overall digestive health, but until recently, it was unclear just how beneficial it could be. New research in the February 14, 2011, online edition of Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that fiber can actually add years to your life.

It has been hypothesized that dietary fiber can lower the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Extending this line of reasoning, Park et al. examined dietary fiber intake in relation to total mortality and death from specific causes in the NIH (National Institutes of Health)-AARP Diet and Health Study.

During an average of 9 years of follow-up, with analysis of data from nearly 400,000 men and women aged 50–71, the team discovered that subjects who consumed the most fiber were 22% less likely to die from any cause. Dietary fiber intake also lowered the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases by 24%–56% in men and by 34%–59% in women. Inverse association between dietary fiber intake and cancer death was observed in men but not in women.

Dietary fiber from whole grains, but not from other sources (fruit, beans, vegetables), was named by the scientists as key in realizing significant health benefits.