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Supplemental Evidence

Wednesday, December 15, 2004; Page F08

While research indicates that fiber plays an indispensable role in disease prevention, the role of fiber supplements in chronic disease prevention remains unproven.

"Human studies specifically looking at fiber supplements haven't shown good results and did not find a lower incidence of colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer," says Harvard's Simin Liu. "Animal studies suggest fiber supplements might increase cell proliferation, which suggests a negative effect, increasing one's risk of developing cancer rather than reducing the risk.The bottom line is we need more research in this area."

Scientists believe that fiber supplements will probably not produce most of the health benefits found with high-fiber foods, with the exception of improved gastrointestinal function and slightly lower bad cholesterol if the supplement is made from viscous (or soluble) fibers such as guar gum or psyllium. "It's best to get fiber from whole foods in your diet," says Liu. "It's good, and it's definitely not harmful within a healthy range."

-- Katherine Tallmadge

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