Dietary fibre and sugar . an inverse relationship.

Dietary Fibre and sugar, an inverse relationship?

It is approximately 50 years since the contentious dietary fibre : sugar debate began. Burkitt, Trowell, Painter and others ¹ proposed that a diet deficient in dietary fibre was a major even sole element in the aetiology of a number of diseases associated with Western life styles. Equally forcibly, Cleave contended that an excess of sugar in the Wester diet resulted in a similar array of pathology ² .Their formidable minds and mode of expression could often get ahead of the factual basis of their hypotheses³.
One of the few direct demonstrations of an actual role for fibre was provided by Painter who showed a relationship between intra colonic pressure and symptomatic colonic diverticulosis. Taking wheat bran reduced the intra colonic pressure and symptoms. He extended his thoughts to a hypothesis that dietary fibre deficiency was a cause of colonic diverticulosis . Or was it a natural concomitant of the ageing process. Rat experiments tended to show that Painter had a real point ⁴.
Such supportive experiments are not provided for dietary excess of sugar and deficiency of fiber for all the other listed conditions . Obesity yes, too much sugar and alcohol.
The dietary sugar versus dietary fibre camps did not recognise any reasonableness in the other proponents case. It seems reasonable to try to compromise even at this is later stage. The compromise is that there is an inverse relationship between dietary fibre intake and dietary sugar intake . The more one eats of the one, the less of the other. Sugar is rapidly absorbed and there is a metabolic response to cope with this. In contrast the digestible polysaccharides are dissimilated in the small intestine and colon and energy and their products slowly absorbed.
Burkitt, Trowell, Painter and Burkitt gave important contributions to nutrition and provided much food for thought. They each only saw half of a picture. Their hypotheses taken together makes sense.

Trowell, HC and Burkitt DP 1981 Western diseases their emergence and prevention Harvard University Press Cambridge Massachusetts.

Cleave TL 1974 The saccharine disease. KeatsPublishing Inc. New Canaan, Connecticut

3. Eastwood M. 1992. The Physiological Effect of Dietary Fiber: An Update
Annual Review of Nutrition. 12: 19-35

4. NS Painter, AZ Almeida, KW Colebourne. 1972. Unprocessed bran and the treatment of diverticula disease of the colon. Br Med J 1972;2:137


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