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Br J Nutr. 2011 Nov;106(9):1349-52. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511001711. Epub 2011 May 31.

Viscosity rather than quantity of dietary fibre predicts cholesterol-lowering effect in healthy individuals.

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Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre, Saint Michael's, Toronto, ON, Canada.


The well-documented lipid-lowering effects of fibre may be related to its viscosity, a phenomenon that has been understudied, especially when fibre is given against the background of a typical North American (NA) diet. In this three-arm experiment, we compared the lipid-lowering effect of low-viscosity wheat bran (WB), medium-viscosity psyllium (PSY) and a high-viscosity viscous fibre blend (VFB), as part of a fibre intervention aimed at increasing fibre intake to recommended levels within the context of a NA diet in apparently healthy individuals. Using a randomised cross-over design, twenty-three participants (twelve males and eleven females; age 35 (SD 12) years; LDL-cholesterol (C) 2.9 (SEM 0.6) mmol/l) consuming a typical NA diet received a standard, fibre-enriched cereal, where approximately one-third of the fibre was either a low-viscosity (570 centipoise (cP)) WB, medium-viscosity (14,300 cP) PSY or a high-viscosity (136,300 cP) novel VFB, for 3 weeks separated by washout periods of ≥ 2 weeks. There were no differences among the treatments in the amount of food consumed, total dietary fibre intake, reported physical activity and body weight. Final intake of the WB, PSY and VFB was 10.8, 9.0 and 5.1 g, respectively. Reduction in LDL-C was greater with the VFB compared with the medium-viscosity PSY (-12.6 (SEM 3.5) %, P = 0.002) and low-viscosity WB (-14.6 (SEM 4.2) %, P = 0.003). The magnitude of LDL-C reduction showed a positive association with fibre apparent viscosity (r - 0.41, P = 0.001). Despite the smaller quantity consumed, the high-viscosity fibre lowered LDL-C to a greater extent than lower-viscosity fibres. These data support the inclusion of high-viscosity fibre in the diet to reduce plasma lipids among apparently healthy individuals consuming a typical NA diet.

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