East Lansing, MI—Heart disease and diabetes risk can be reduced in teens by sticking to a diet rich in fiber, new research shows. While consuming certain vegetables and whole grains was correlated with avoiding these conditions, the study also found, perhaps surprisingly, saturated fat or cholesterol intake was not linked to a risk of metabolic syndrome in young people.

Along with colleagues, lead author Joe Carlson, head of the Division of Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition at Michigan State University, examined diet data from more than 2,000 U.S. teens aged 12 to 19. They compared this data, culled from government information collected between 1999 and 2002 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, with the risk factors that comprise metabolic syndrome, or syndrome X. These factors are high blood pressure; elevated sugar and fat content in the blood; low levels of HDL, a.k.a. “good” cholesterol and a large waistline. The researchers found consuming three servings of fruit, three servings of vegetables and two servings of whole grains a day to be a useful goal for avoiding these conditions.

The findings on high-fiber diets were drawn from the 6% of studied teens that had some components of metabolic syndrome. Out of the group with the lowest fiber intake (less than 3 grams per 1,000 calories), 9% possessed some risk factors for disease. In the group with the highest intake (11 or more grams per 1,000 calories), only 3% showed signs of metabolic syndrome. This was while no correlation was found between metabolic syndrome and separate saturated fat and cholesterol indexes.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2012