Eating more fiber after heart attack may lengthen life

Heart attack survivors who eat more fiber may live longer, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. People who ate the most fiber after a heart attack had a 25% lower chance of dying in the following decade, compared with those who ate the least fiber, the study found. Additionally, researchers found the biggest benefit among those who ate the most “cereal fiber”—from foods like oatmeal, barley and whole-wheat pasta.

The study, published April 29, 2014 in BMJ (British Medical Journal), analyzed data from 2,258 female nurses in the Nurses’ Health Study and 1,840 male health professionals in the Health Professional Follow-up Study who had survived a first heart attack, and followed them over a nine-year period.

While other studies have found that those who eat a lot of fiber have a lower risk of developing heart disease in the first place, this is the first study that suggests eating more fiber after a heart attack can also be beneficial. “It’s never too late for heart attack patients to start eating healthy and increasing their dietary fiber intake,” lead author Shanshan Li, research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology, told Fox News.

Even though the study found the biggest benefit from eating cereal fiber, senior author Eric Rimm, associate professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition, told U.S. News & World Report that heart attack survivors should aim for a diet that includes fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains—foods that are not only rich in fiber but also contain important vitamins and minerals.

Read the BMJ study: Dietary fiber intake and mortality among survivors of myocardial infarction: prospective cohort study

Read the Fox News article: Dietary fiber may help heart attack survivors live longer

Read the U.S. News & World Report article: High-Fiber Diet May Aid Heart Attack Survivors

Learn more

Health Gains from Whole Grains (HSPH Nutrition Source)