A paper published online June 1 in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences by scientists from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Sydney found that consuming the right amount of fiber from breads, cereals and fruits can help humans to avoid disease and disability into old age.

The researchers explored the relationship between carbohydrate nutrition and healthy aging by analyzing data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that examined a cohort of more than 1,600 adults aged 49 and older for long-term sensory-loss risk factors and systemic diseases.

Of all factors studied—including total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load and sugar intake—fiber made the biggest difference to what the researchers termed “successful aging,” defined as an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases, including cancer, coronary artery disease and stroke.

“Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80% greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression and functional disability,” said lead author Bamini Gopinath, PhD, from The Westmead Institute’s Centre for Vision Research.

While it might have been expected that sugar intake level would affect successful aging, associate professor Gopinath points out that the particular subjects they examined were older adults whose intake of carbonated and sugary drinks was quite low.

Although it is too early to use the study results as a basis for dietary advice, Gopinath said the research has opened up a new avenue for exploration. “There are a lot of other large cohort studies that could pursue this further and see if they can find similar associations. And it would also be interesting to tease out the mechanisms that are actually linking these variables.”

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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