Why Bushmen are Healthier than the Average Westerner
Dr. Dennis Burkitt, a famous English physician, studied the differences
between indigenous African bushmen and their "civilized" western
counterparts. The bushmen seemed to be free of the scourges of modern
life -- including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Dr. Burkitt found that the average bushman had a stool weight of two
pounds and the "civilized" men had a stool weight of only four ounces -
that's 87.5 percent smaller! The difference was in the amount of fiber
Today, the average American eats about 8 grams of fiber a day. But the
average hunter and gatherer ate 100 grams from all manner of roots,
berries, leaves and plant foods. And the fiber is what helped those
ancestors of ours stay healthy. Just take a look at all the good things
that fiber can do for your body.
You need fiber to keep you healthy from top to bottom, as well as to
provide food for the healthy bacteria that work within you to promote
In fact, fiber can actually prevent obesity(i) and all the chronic
disease of aging. This is because fiber slows the rate at which food
enters your bloodstream and increases the speed at which food exits your
body through the digestive tract. (ii) That keeps your blood sugar and
cholesterol in ideal balance -- and quickly eliminates toxins from your
gut and reduces your appetite,
There's good science to back this up. Research shows that fiber can
lower blood sugar as much as some diabetes medications,(iii) lower
cholesterol(iv), and promote weight loss.(v)
It's clear, fiber is a great ally in the battle of the bulge.
But it's also a hero in more serious battles.
For example, one recent study showed how butyrate made by gut bacteria
from certain types of fiber acts as a switching molecule that turns on
an anticancer gene -- and turns OFF colon cancer. In fact, fiber has
been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as a third and
breast cancer by almost 40 percent.
It also lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease by as
much as 40 percent.(vi) And if you have diabetes, adding fiber to your
diet may even help you use less insulin. Plus, it's a great natural cure
for constipation and irregularity.(vii)
Now that you know how beneficial it is, let's look at how you can begin
taking advantage of fiber's health benefits.
Getting Enough Daily Fiber
You should shoot to get 30 to 50 grams of fiber into your diet every
day.(viii) The type of fiber you choose is important, too.
Most people think that bran is the best type of fiber to eat. But bran
(wheat fiber) is mostly insoluble and doesn't get digested. Think of it
as more of a scouring pad for your intestines. That's good for getting
you regular, but it just can't help your health the way that soluble
You'll find soluble fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and
most whole grains. The bacteria in your gut metabolizes the soluble
fiber in these foods, and that's when the benefits start.
Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin,
prevent cancer, balance hormone levels, remove excess estrogen and
reduce the risk of breast cancer, make vitamins and minerals, provide
food for the colon cells, and more. So it's easy to see just how crucial
soluble fiber is to good heath!
In just a minute, I'm going to tell you how to increase your fiber
intake. But first, I want to tell you about some recent discoveries
regarding an ancient fiber source that can help you lose weight, lower
your cholesterol, reduce your appetite and lower your blood sugar more
effectively than ANY other fiber. It's called glucomannan, but I call it
Glucomannan: The Benefits of Super Fiber
Glucomannan (GM) is a soluble, fermentable, and highly viscous dietary
fiber that comes from the root of the elephant yam, also known as konjac
(Amorphophallus konjac or Amorphophallus rivieri), native to Asia. The
konjac tuber has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy and to make
traditional foods such as konjac jelly, tofu, and noodles. More
recently, purified konjac flour, or GM, has been used as a food
stabilizer, gelling agent, and supplement.
What makes this fiber so super is the fact that it can absorb up to 50
times its weight in water -- making it one of the most viscous dietary
That means that GM can help you shed pounds. In many studies, doses of
two to four grams of GM per day were well-tolerated.(ix),(x) This amount
also resulted in significant weight loss in overweight and obese
GM works by promoting a sense of fullness.(xii),(xiii) Plus, it pushes
more calories out through your colon, rather than letting them be
absorbed.(xiv) It also lowers the energy density of the food you eat. In
other words, it bulks up food in your gut -- creating a lower calorie
content per weight of food you eat.(xv)
And since fiber has almost no calories but a lot of weight, adding it to
your diet lowers the energy-to-weight ratio of the food that you eat.
Studies show that the weight of food controls your appetite, so the
fiber increases the food's weight WITHOUT increasing calories -- a
critical factor in weight control.
This powerful fiber may also control your appetite in other key ways.
For example, it sends signals to your brain that there is a lot of food
in your gut and tells it to slow down on stuffing food in there.
GM also leaves your stomach and small bowel slowly because it is so
viscous. By slowing the rate of food absorption from the gut to the
bloodstream, GM reduces the amount of insulin produced after a meal,
which also controls your appetite.
It may also increase the level of hormones in the gut (such as
cholecystokinin), which is another way to control your appetite.(xvi)
And finally, you lose more calories through stool because GM soaks up
all those extra calories!
GM can also help your health in other ways. In addition to weight
reduction, GM has been studied for its effects on constipation, serum
cholesterol,(xvii) blood glucose,(xviii) blood pressure,(xix) and
insulin resistance syndrome.(xx)
With all those benefits, there's no doubt you should eat more fiber. No,
you probably won't be eating 12 pounds of food like your ancestors did!
But you can increase your fiber intake, just by being smart about what
you eat. Here are some simple suggestions for increasing fiber in your
9 Tips for Increasing the Fiber in Your Diet
1. Get the flax. Get a coffee grinder just for flax seeds, grind 1/2 cup
at a time, and keep it in a tightly sealed glass jar in the fridge or
freezer. Eat 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day. Sprinkle it on
salads, grains, or vegetable dishes or mix it in a little unsweetened
2. Load up on legumes. Beans beat out everything else for fiber content!
3. Bulk up on vegetables. With low levels of calories and high levels of
antioxidants and protective phytochemicals, these excellent fiber
sources should be heaped on your plate daily.
4. Go with the grain. Whole grains like brown rice or quinoa are rich in
5. Eat more fruit. Include a few servings of low-sugar fruits to your
diet daily (berries are the highest in fiber and other protective
6. Go nuts. Include a few handfuls of almonds, walnuts, pecans, or
hazelnuts to your diet every day.
7. Start slowly. Switching abruptly to a high-fiber diet can cause gas
and bloating. Increase your fiber intake slowly till you get up to 50
grams a day.
8. Consider a good fiber supplement. If you're have trouble getting your
fill of fiber, choose a supplement that contains both soluble and
insoluble fiber and no sweeteners or additives.
9. Choose GM. By now, you know that my favorite kind is glucomannan
(GM), or konjac. Many companies sell it in capsule form. Although I
don't normally recommend specific brands, I like the one produced by
Natural Factors called WellBetX. You can take 2 to 4 capsules with a
glass of water, 30 to 60 minutes before eating. Don't take any
medications within 1 hour before or 2 hours after taking it because the
fiber may absorb the medication.
As you can see, fiber has big benefits for your health -- from
encouraging weight loss to preventing chronic diseases. I hope you'll
start adding more of this important compound into your diet today!