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Paying a Nutrition Penalty : High-Fiber Diets Ineffective for Weight Loss

November 13, 1986

Anxious dieters consuming excessive amounts of fiber in an effort to lose weight may find that they lose more nutrients than pounds, according to a university study.

Overweight adults who consumed a very high-fiber oat and wheat bran bar daily lost only one pound more than those on low-fiber diets in a 12-week, clinical study at UC Davis' Clinical Nutrition Center which specializes in weight loss.

"We expected to find that fiber in large amounts, with its ability to move food through the system, would promote weight loss," said Carolyn S. Russ, a registered dietitian and principal researcher of the Davis study. "But the 40-gram supplements we used, which were much like those high-fiber bars found in crash or fad diets, were ineffective."

One Could Lose Vital Nutrients

In addition to being useless for weight loss, extremely high-fiber diets can bind minerals such as calcium, zinc and copper and remove them from the bowel, according to the Harvard Medical School Health Letter.

"A diet very high in fiber might thus interfere with absorption of needed minerals," according to the physicians' newsletter, and at the least, will probably lead to gas and intestinal discomfort.

The safest and healthiest way to lose weight by dietary changes, according to Russ, is to keep calories down, eat smaller portions of a variety of foods and eat moderate amounts of fiber from natural sources such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables and legumes.

Also important, especially for younger women on diets, is to be careful not to eliminate entire food groups such as dairy foods or meats, she said.

Younger women tend to be low in calcium and iron, and need the milk and meat groups to help avoid osteoporosis and anemia.

Russ added that content of the diet is just one manageable factor in weight loss. Equally important are exercise and learning how to control eating habits.

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