A high-fiber diet has long been recommended for diabetes patients because fiber slows digestion and helps prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes. Soluble fiber specifically is recommended for diabetes patients because insoluble fiber can speed up intestinal transit, whereas soluble fiber slows it down. But new research is focusing on one form of soluble fiber that may benefit diabetes patients the most: viscous fiber.
What is viscous fiber?
When mixed with water, viscous fiber turns into a thick gel and slows down digestion. It can be found in food like legumes, oats, asparagus, and flax seed.
If you can’t get enough viscous fiber from your diet, it can also be found in the supplements guar gum, psyllium, and pectin. Many people with Western diets (think meat and potatoes) fall into this category and don’t receive enough soluble fiber in their diets to make a meaningful difference in blood sugar levels. If you do, you may want to consider asking your doctor if viscous fiber supplements would help manage your diabetes.
Researchers examined data from 28 clinical trials with a total of 1,394 diabetic participants and published the results in Diabetes Care. Some of the participants were chosen at random to take supplements with viscous fiber. The remaining participants either took supplements with no fiber or no supplements at all.
What the researchers found was that those who took the fiber supplements had notably better blood sugar control. The control group had better fasting glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, and A1c levels. In fact, these fiber supplements lowered A1c levels an average 0.58 percent.
Benefits of fiber
Fiber also aides in weight management because it helps you feel full longer. It can even lower blood pressure and cholesterol, something people with diabetes may struggle with.
Toby Smithson, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said, “Foods high in soluble fiber become gummy or sticky as they pass through the digestive tract, helping to reduce the absorption of cholesterol.”
Doctors recommend you get 20-35 grams of soluble fiber each day.
Fiber-rich foods include:
Even if you don’t have diabetes, soluble fiber is an important part of every diet. Talk to your doctor to see if soluble fiber supplements are right for you.