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Fiber for Weightloss? Use The Right Type.

April 17th, 2009

Whole fruits and vegetables are the best source of insoluble fiber.

Whole fruits and vegetables are the best sources of insoluble fiber.

It’s already been well-established that increasing dietary fiber has all kinds of benefits for you; lower cholesterol, lower risk of disease, better elimination and detoxification and even better weight management. And it’s also pretty well-established  that most people don’t get enough dietary fiber in the first place.  So it’s always been easy to make a case for fiber supplements, since they’re so inexpensive, safe and easy-to-use.

But there are different types of fiber, and they  have different effects and benefits. So you want to make sure you’re using the right kind of fiber supplement for your situation. If you’re using or considering using fiber for weight management,  there’s new information that points to a crucial difference between the type of fiber and whether it promotes weight loss or weight gain. It’s good food-for-thought for anyone trying to lean up and looking for safe, effective and non-stimulant options.

First, a refresher course on fiber. Dietary fiber comes exclusively from the indigestible parts of plant foods and is of two primary types; soluble and insoluble fiber.

Both soluble and insoluble fibers are important for overall health, and both can play a role in weightloss.

Soluble fibers are capable of absorbing liquids, water and fats, sometimes in huge quantities relative to their amounts.  They help to solidify and add moisture to the bowel and can help with the absorption of some  nutrients. Soluble fiber can also help by reducing the absorption of other  nutrients like  cholesterol.

Insoluble fibers cannot be digested, or absorbed, nor do they absorb anything themselves. Insoluble fiber passes out of the body essentially unchanged. Fruit and vegetable skins/peels are good examples and good sources as are 100% bran products. Since they don’t digest, insoluble fiber helps to scour and clear the digestive tract, pushing along food material to facilitate digestion and healthy elimination.

The study used test subjects genetically prone to obesity and given a high fat diet. Researchers compared the effects of supplementing with either soluble or insoluble fiber over a 45 week period.  They reported dramatic differences between  the weight loss effects of the two types, clearly favoring soluble fiber as better for weight loss.  Why? One mechanism they suggest is that soluble fibers maximize calorie absorption whereas insoluble fibers increase calorie loss through the feces.

The study is also interesting because all the fiber-based weight loss products in the past have used soluble fibers.  Glucomannan fiber, for example, is a soluble fiber that acts as an effective appetite suppressant. Appetite suppressants are good short-term approaches when beginning a weight loss program, but aren’t a good long term solution.  To help keep weight off and maintain an energetic healthy metabolism, you have to re-establish the delicate balance between your appetite, food intake and energy expenditure as you lose weight. Appetite suppressants can help in the beginning, but if used day-in-day-out they’ll  interfere with the body’s attempt to re-establish this important balance. Another type of soluble fiber used for weight loss is chitosan fat blocker, which works by absorbing and irreversibly binding  to dietary fats.

In the winter, or whenever fresh produce is hard to come by, remember that frozen has all the fiber of fresh.

In the winter, or whenever fresh produce is hard to come by, remember that frozen has all the fiber of fresh.

So when using fiber supplement for weight loss,  choose a product with the highest amount of soluble fiber.  You aren’t likely to see too many 100% insoluble fiber supplements since they’d be like taking sawdust and people wouldn’t use them.  You have to get most of your insoluble fiber from whole fruits and vegetables with the skin, and 100% bran products.  To that you can add a fiber supplement that contains some insoluble fiber. Two that we like are the Yerba Prima Daily Fiber Caps for an encapsulated supplement and Health From the Sun’s FiPro Flax for a versatile powder.

Click on the image to see these and other fiber supplements.

Click on the image to see these and other fiber supplements.

8 Responses to “Fiber for Weightloss? Use The Right Type.”

  1. August 04, 2011 at 8:03 am, LIZANN said:

    GOOD ARTICLE, BUT REREAD… AND CORRECT-EDIT IF THERE IS AN ERROR. Para 7, states the wt loss study (referred to in the article) clearly favors SOLUBLE for wt loss. Yet para 9 states to use highest INSOLUBLE CONTENT supplement when choosing for weight loss. Yes I know-see what both types do, and a healthy benefit and balance of both types. However, reading for that purpose left me unsure if Para 7 should have said “Insoluble” instead of soluble. Thanks and God Bless.

  2. August 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm, Paul_Baeyens said:

    Hi LIZANN, you are correct, there was a typo. Paragraph 7 is correct and Paragraph 9 was incorrect: It should read soluble fiber. It has been updated. Thanks for looking out :)

  3. August 14, 2011 at 10:24 am, Huntress said:

    I’m still confused–if soluble fiber maximizes calorie absorption, while insoluble maximizes calorie loos, shouldn’t insoluble fiber be more beneficial for weightloss?

  4. August 14, 2011 at 10:26 am, Huntress said:

    oops–that should be ”loss’ of course, not ‘loos’

  5. August 15, 2011 at 12:39 am, Paul_Baeyens said:

    Huntress, I believe this article’s driving point was to suggest that consuming more fiber—both soluble and insoluble—can help with weight loss in many different ways. Whether it be by “absorbing” calories or “excreting” calories, both types of fiber can be very beneficial; and not just for weight loss. However, I think the purpose of this article was to serve as a self-check initiative for all who read it. Great questions to ask yourself include: 1. Am I getting enough fiber each day? 2. Am I getting any fiber each day? 3. What foods do I enjoy that are naturally high in fiber? Now I know which foods to eat more of to get more fiber!

    My best advice to you is to consume a moderate amount of fiber each day from fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes/beans, ancient grains and whole wheat food sources. You’ll notice that many of these foods are naturally prescribed in many different types of diets, and not just because of the fiber, but because they are naturally nurturing, supplying vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients among fiber, too. The fiber is just one part of a very complex system.

    Hope this helps! – Paul

  6. August 20, 2011 at 11:00 am, Huntress said:

    Paul–thanks for your reply!

  7. August 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm, Paul_Baeyens said:

    Of course! Take care -Paul

  8. March 01, 2016 at 7:19 pm, Ben said:

    OK, so I’m a few years late to the discussion! Paul, if you’re still there, I was going to ask the same question as Huntress. Logically, if soluble fiber maximizes calorie absorption it should be worse for weight loss, not better. Since the study’s focus is weight loss/obesity this is an important point. Also, can you please cite the study? Thanks.

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