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Our thresh-hold to health; a concentrated form of fiber in new cereals will help provide the daily requirements without a high intake of calories.


Psyllium, a fiber grain being threshed today, is making quite a stir among cereal manufacturers. "If this grain is so important to good health that doctors recommend it in the form of such products as Metamucil and Fiberall for their non-fiber-eating patients, why not incorporate it in the cereal bowl?" the cereal companies ask.

So, for those patients who lack the "heart smarts" to get their fibert quotas by eating whole-grain cereals and breads, vegetables, and fruits, here's the answer: a concentrated form of fiber in a new cereal now being introduced to the market.

Dr. James Anderson of the University of Kentucky, who was an early fiber authority, recommends 70 grams of fiber (soluble and insoluble) a day for his heart patients with seriously high cholesterol levels and 25 to 40 grams a day for the general public.

It takes a heap of eating to consume 25 to 40 grams of fiber a day. The trick is to reach the fiber quota without having the calories add up faster than the fiber. The good news is that psyllium has an unobtrusive flavor that doesn't interfere with most of the dishes you might add it to. We have tried psyllium-laced cereal in any number of recipes, and they are all mighty tasty.

To test the value of an increase in dietary-fiber intake as part of an overall health diet, Dr. Anderson and his colleagues treated patients having elevated cholesterol levels with either cellulose placebos (no-effect substances) or psyllium grain. Subjects took about a teaspoonful of the orange-flavored granules stirred into a glass of water before every meal. All were on standard diets with less than 100 milligrams of cholesterol daily. After eight weeks, psyllium takers had reduced their total cholesterol levels by 14.8 percent; low-density lipoproteins (LDL--the bad guys), by 20.2 percent. Psyllium did not affect body weight, blood pressure, or blood levels of HDL (the guys in the white hats), triglycerides, glucose, iron, or zinc.

As a health food, psyllium belongs to a group of soluble fibers, including gums, pectins, and mucilages, that show cholesterol-lowering effects when added to patients' diets. Psyllium and oat bran, both concentrated sources of soluble fiber, are most effective for lowering blood fat levels and reducing heart disease risks. The method by which they do so is not currently well-understood. But more important, especially to high-cholesterol patients, is that there is ample evidence that they do so.

With increasing evidence that lowering LDL levels will decrease the incidence of coronary events, treatment for patients with elevated cholesterol levels (which include 40 to 50 percent of the U.S. population) begins with dietary therapy.

One study reveals that for "people with high cholesterol levels, daily doses of psyllium combined with the proper diet may be all the therapy they need to control this problem. The same combination may also serve as an alternative to drug therapy for a significant number of people, helping them to avoid the expense and possible side effects of drug therapy."

In a Netherlands study, men with the lowest fiber intake had four times the death rate from heart disease than men with the highest fiber intake. In the same study, men with the lowest fiber intake also had three times the death rate from cancer.

Other studies have shown that people with high fiber intake develop colon cancer less frequently than those with low fiber intake do. Studies also have linked breat cancer to a high-fat low-fiber diet.

Fiber also holds great potential to help prevent or treat many of the chronic diseases of our society. This includes the five major causes of death and disability in the United States: heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

In a 1974 interview with Dr. Gary Costley at Kellogg's, he said, "americans began to eat less fiber around 1870. It was then that milling techniques made flour with a low-fiber content readily available. White bread contains less than 1 percent fiber. Meanwhile, consumption of bread has dropped by 80 percent since 1880. The intake of cereal fiber in the form of porridge has dropped by 33 percent during the last century. All in all, Americans probably eat less than 20 percent of the fiber they did a century ago."

Thanks to Dr. Costley's efforts and those of his colleagues, we're sure more people are eating cereal and their "daily bread" in 1989.

Dr. Costley, trained as a nutritionist, was, and still is, a leader in the fiber explosion that has changed the medical profession in the way it looks at food as a "preventive medicine."

It was also the Kellogg Company that recently braved tradition by being the first to print fiber information from the National Cancer Institute on millions of cereal boxes. The Food and Drug Administration to its credit, did not choose to call the food "medicine." Nor are the high-fiber prunes in the cereal likely to become a "medicine" under the jurisdiction of the EDA.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:psyllium
Author:Stoddard, Mary Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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