Water-soluble dietary fibers and cardiovascular disease

Physiol Behav. 2008 May 23;94(2):285-92. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.01.001. Epub 2008 Jan 5.


One well-established way to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is to lower serum LDL cholesterol levels by reducing saturated fat intake. However, the importance of other dietary approaches, such as increasing the intake of water-soluble dietary fibers is increasingly recognized. Well-controlled intervention studies have now shown that four major water-soluble fiber types-beta-glucan, psyllium, pectin and guar gum-effectively lower serum LDL cholesterol concentrations, without affecting HDL cholesterol or triacylglycerol concentrations. It is estimated that for each additional gram of water-soluble fiber in the diet serum total and LDL cholesterol concentrations decrease by -0.028 mmol/L and -0.029 mmol/L, respectively. Despite large differences in molecular structure, no major differences existed between the different types of water-soluble fiber, suggesting a common underlying mechanism. In this respect, it is most likely that water-soluble fibers lower the (re)absorption of in particular bile acids. As a result hepatic conversion of cholesterol into bile acids increases, which will ultimately lead to increased LDL uptake by the liver. Additionally, epidemiological studies suggest that a diet high in water-soluble fiber is inversely associated with the risk of CVD. These findings underlie current dietary recommendations to increase water-soluble fiber intake.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diet
  • Diet Surveys
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Galactans / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Lipogenesis / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mannans / pharmacology
  • Pectins / pharmacology
  • Plant Gums / pharmacology
  • Psyllium / pharmacology
  • beta-Glucans


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids
  • Galactans
  • Mannans
  • Plant Gums
  • beta-Glucans
  • Psyllium
  • Pectins
  • guar gum