Fibre and Obesity

It is widely known that levels of obesity across the world have been rising at a staggering rate over the past few decades. We can’t miss the constant references to junk food and obesity in the news, however our obesogenic environments seem to present people with barriers to losing weight and becoming healthier.

Wholegrain Bread contains fibre
Foods like wholegrain bread contains fibre which could be good for a healthy weight and BMI.

It is important to overcome these barriers as the rises in overweight and obesity have been directly linked to low intakes of fibre rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole-grains and legumes (i.e. under the recommended intake of 18-30 grams of fibre a day in the UK).

Likewise, higher intakes of fibre are correlated with lower body mass index (BMI) and reduced incidence of metabolic disturbances such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Fibre may also help to induce satiety, balance blood sugar and prevent hunger pangs and cravings which in turn can help to reduce energy intake, which offers another potential benefit for overweight individuals.

In order to investigate the effect of overweight individuals’ fibre intake in particular, one study (1) compared the fibre intakes from healthy diet, supplementation or a placebo on body composition and other metabolic measures. This study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, aimed to discover the effects of additional fibre intakes on metabolic outcomes and also to determine the amount of fibre that would be the most effective. The study used four groups where subjects either consumed a placebo powder (breadcrumbs) with their usual diet (control), a fibre supplement in the form of 12g of psyllium husks with their usual diet, a healthy eating diet with placebo and finally healthy eating diet with fibre supplementation. The researchers found that compared to the control group, who simply ate their usual diet with a placebo, the subjects in all groups increased their daily fibre intakes. Specifically, the healthy eating diet with psyllium husk supplementation group increased their fibre intake by a massive 39g a day, which was in comparison to an 11g increase for health eating alone.

The authors noted that the addition of the fibre supplement to a normal diet was enough to produce improvements in weight, BMI and % body fat. However, they stated that it is the combination of a healthy diet with fibre supplementation that produced the greatest improvements in all bodily measures (including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, insulin, body weight and BMI) for overweight individuals. This led the authors to conclude that an intake of fibre above 30g per day from both dietary sources and fibre supplements was the most suitable for those who are overweight, and not simply the adoption of a healthy diet alone. Therefore, if you are interested in losing weight, increasing your health and reducing your risks of metabolic conditions, you may wish to include the following high fibre foods into your diet along with fibre supplements such as psyllium, rice bran, wheat bran etc:

– Vegetables; including split peas (around 8g of fibre per 100g).

– Seeds; for example flax seeds provide 2.7g of fibre per tablespoon.

– Cereals; e.g a medium size bowl of All-Bran contains 9.8g of fibre; Two pieces of Shredded Wheat contain 4.3g of fibre; Two Weetabix contain 3.6g of fibre.

– Legumes such as red kidney beans; three tablespoons of red kidney beans contain 5.4g of fibre.

– Fruits such as apricots; three whole apricots contain 5g of fibre; Three whole prunes contain 4.6g of fibre and a medium size pear (with skin) contains 3.7g of fibre.

Written by Lauren Foster


(1) Pal, S. Khossousi, A., Binns, C., Dhaliwal, S. & Ellis, V. (2011). The effect of a fibre supplement compared to a healthy diet on body composition, lipids, glucose, insulin and other metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight and obese individuals. British Journal of Nutrition, 105, 90100.