The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre

Nutrients. 2020 Oct 21;12(10):3209. doi: 10.3390/nu12103209.


Background: Dietary fibre consists of non-digestible forms of carbohydrate, usually as polysaccharides that originate from plant-based foods. Over recent decades, our diet within Westernised societies has changed radically from that of our hominid ancestors, with implications for our co-evolved gut microbiota. This includes increased ingestion of ultra-processed foods that are typically impoverished of dietary fibre, and associated reduction in the intake of fibre-replete plant-based foods. Over recent decades, there has been a transformation in our understanding of the health benefits of dietary fibre.

Objective: To explore the current medical literature on the health benefits of dietary fibre, with a focus on overall metabolic health.

Data sources: We performed a narrative review, based on relevant articles written in English from a PubMed search, using the terms 'dietary fibre and metabolic health'.

Results: In the Western world, our diets are impoverished of fibre. Dietary fibre intake associates with overall metabolic health (through key pathways that include insulin sensitivity) and a variety of other pathologies that include cardiovascular disease, colonic health, gut motility and risk for colorectal carcinoma. Dietary fibre intake also correlates with mortality. The gut microflora functions as an important mediator of the beneficial effects of dietary fibre, including the regulation of appetite, metabolic processes and chronic inflammatory pathways.

Conclusions: Multiple factors contribute to our fibre-impoverished modern diet. Given the plethora of scientific evidence that corroborate the multiple and varied health benefits of dietary fibre, and the risks associated with a diet that lacks fibre, the optimization of fibre within our diets represents an important public health strategy to improve both metabolic and overall health. If implemented successfully, this strategy would likely result in substantial future health benefits for the population.

Keywords: dietary fibre; gut microflora; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Body Weight
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage*
  • Eating
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Gastrointestinal Motility
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Mortality
  • Obesity / epidemiology


  • Dietary Fiber