Fibre is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. It can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, and can also improve digestive health. It comes exclusively from plants and is not present in meat, fish or animal products (including dairy). Fibre is a complex carbohydrate (type of sugar) which cannot be digested by the human body unlike other carbohydrates, which are broken down by the body to provide fuel in the form of glucose.

Researchers from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia found that eating the right amount of fibre can help us avoid disease and disability into old age. They have claimed that eating a diet rich in fibre, that includes breads, cereals and fruits, may help you live a healthy and longer life.The research appears in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical SciencesUsing data compiled from a study that examined a cohort of more than 1,600 adults aged 50 years and older for long-term sensory loss risk factors and systemic diseases, the researchers explored the relationship between carbohydrate nutrition and healthy ageing.They found that out of all the factors they examined – which included a person’s total carbohydrate intake, total fibre intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake – it was the fibre that made the biggest difference to what the researchers termed “successful ageing.” Successful ageing was defined as including an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms and chronic diseases including cancer, coronary artery disease and stroke.

According to Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath from the Institute’s Centre for Vision Research, the study is the first to look at the relationship between carbohydrate intake and healthy ageing, and the results were significant enough to warrant further investigation. “Out of all the variables that we looked at, fibre intake – which is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest – had the strongest influence,” she said.”Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fibre or total fibre actually had an almost 80 per cent 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 Gopinath.While it might have been expected that the level of sugar intake would make the biggest impact on successful ageing, Gopinath pointed out that the particular group they examined were older adults whose intake of carbonated and sugary drinks was quite low, researchers said.

According to Anju Sood, a bangalore-based Nutritionist, “Fibre elongates your digestion time which will further increase your metabolic rate. It also requires a lot of water to get flush out from the body. Excess of fibre is not good as it make you highly constipated. Milk is an important fibre food as it has soluble fibre.”