Observational studies have shown that dietary fiber intake is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Dietary fiber is a non-digestible form of carbohydrates, due to the lack of the digestive enzyme in humans required to digest fiber. Dietary fibers and lignin are intrinsic to plants and are classified according to their water solubility properties as either soluble or insoluble fibers. Water-soluble fibers include pectin, gums, mucilage, fructans, and some resistant starches. They are present in some fruits, vegetables, oats, and barley. Soluble fibers have been shown to lower blood cholesterol by several mechanisms. On the other hand, water-insoluble fibers mainly include lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose; whole-grain foods, bran, nuts, and seeds are rich in these fibers. Water-insoluble fibers have rapid gastric emptying, and as such may decrease the intestinal transit time and increase fecal bulk, thus promoting digestive regularity. In addition to dietary fiber, isolated and extracted fibers are known as functional fiber and have been shown to induce beneficial health effects when added to food during processing. The recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for total fiber intake for men and women aged 19-50 are 38 gram/day and 25 gram/day, respectively. It is worth noting that the RDA recommendations are for healthy people and do not apply to individuals with some chronic diseases. Studies have shown that most Americans do not consume the recommended intake of fiber. This review will summarize the current knowledge regarding dietary fiber, sources of food containing fiber, atherosclerosis, and heart disease risk reduction.
Keywords: cardiovascular disease; dietary fiber; food groups; functional fiber; insoluble fiber; soluble fiber; the chemical composition of fiber.