Context: Epidemiological studies of men suggest that dietary fiber intake protects against coronary heart disease (CHD), but data on this association in women are sparse.
Objective: To examine the association between long-term intake of total dietary fiber as well as fiber from different sources and risk of CHD in women.
Design and setting: The Nurses' Health Study, a large, prospective cohort study of US women followed up for 10 years from 1984. Dietary data were collected in 1984, 1986, and 1990, using a validated semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire.
Participants: A total of 68782 women aged 37 to 64 years without previously diagnosed angina, myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, cancer, hypercholesterolemia, or diabetes at baseline.
Main outcome measure: Incidence of acute MI or death due to CHD by amount of fiber intake.
Results: Response rate averaged 80% to 90% during the 10-year follow-up. We documented 591 major CHD events (429 nonfatal MIs and 162 CHD deaths). The age-adjusted relative risk (RR) for major CHD events was 0.53 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.40-0.69) for women in the highest quintile of total dietary fiber intake (median, 22.9 g/d) compared with women in the lowest quintile (median, 11.5 g/d). After controlling for age, cardiovascular risk factors, dietary factors, and multivitamin supplement use, the RR was 0.77 (95% CI, 0.57-1.04). For a 10-g/d increase in total fiber intake (the difference between the lowest and highest quintiles), the multivariate RR of total CHD events was 0.81 (95% CI, 0.66-0.99). Among different sources of dietary fiber (eg, cereal, vegetables, fruit), only cereal fiber was strongly associated with a reduced risk of CHD (multivariate RR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.49-0.81 for each 5-g/d increase in cereal fiber).
Conclusions: Our findings in women support the hypothesis that higher fiber intake, particularly from cereal sources, reduces the risk of CHD.