Go to a prostate cancer support group and I guarantee sometime during the conversation the issues surrounding diet and supplements will become a hot topic of conversation. My guess is that if you poll the topics of the “special guest lecturers” that speak at support groups, 15% of the topics will include diet and supplements. There is no denying that diet and supplements are “hot topics’ on the mind of cancer survivors.

Despite the fact that “fiber has been declared king” by current standards most of us do not get enough in our diet. If you read the labels on out yogurt, ice cream, crackers and everything else we eat you’d find they are all packed (fortified) with extra fiber. But this is a subject of great speculation.
Most of us still don’t get nearly enough fiber in our diet, despite the fact that it’s now packed in everything from yogurt to ice cream sandwiches, crackers to fortified water. However, according to the National Fiber Council, the average American consumes between 10 and 15 grams of the stuff each day — about a third of the 32 grams recommended by the FDA.

Many dietitians recommend that people consume between 20 and 40 grams each day. The best way to get this amount of fiber is a high plant food diet. This type of diet is associated with the prevention of every kind of disease, and fiber is one of the things in this style of diet.

Fiber which is the indigestible part of fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains – the magic about fiber is that it can help with everything from weight control to heart disease, preventing constipation and diabetes along the way. Fiber also makes you feel fuller longer and maybe eat less, limiting your caloric intake. It binds to fats and cholesterol in the blood. It prevents diverticular disease and may even stop colon cancer. Fiber may be the miracle food as studies have shown that it can lower your risk of having a heart attack by as much as a third.

The virtues of fiber go on. It works as an immune-system booster. When fiber enters into the large intestine it ferments, feeding the thousands of varieties of healthy bacteria needed for good digestion and health. As fiber moves through the colon it absorbs water, which keeps waste firm and regular trips to the bathroom on track.

However, we need to pick our food with caution as not all the dietary fiber we eat is the same. FDA standards requires the “good source of fiber” label that you often see on products on the grocery shelve contain at least 10 percent of the recommended daily requirement, more and more products claim this label when they actually contain processed ingredients that mimic the real stuff. More commonly these fiber-fortified products actually contain inulin, polydextrose and maltodextrin, derived from things like fructose, glucose and corn. The food manufactures claim these are fibrous because our bodies lack the enzymes to digest them. They do in fact pass through our digestive systems without being absorbed, but it remains unclear if these sources of supposed fiber offer the same benefit as natural fiber.

Emerson Hospital dietitian Ena Sandler, said of this controversy about these new fibers, “We don’t know enough about these things because they haven’t been studied, but we do know that they don’t behave the same way other soluble fibers do, like oats and barley.”
She went on to say, “ Products like Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, which boast 3 grams of fiber per dessert, Fiber One yogurt and High Fiber V8, which both contain five grams per serving, aren’t necessarily good sources, despite the hype. The best fibers are the natural ones, eaten in both moderation and variety. It’s really about balance. You don’t want people thinking they can eat more ice cream sandwiches to get their fiber. You’ve got to look at the whole picture. Whole foods and natural foods are your best source.”

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW