The Allegory of Red Meat
This question is extremely important to answer, because it will ultimately drive habit and health. It’s similar in character to the question red meat poses to us:
Much has been made of the research which suggests that red meat is bad for us, and particularly bad for the colon. Splashy headlines warning the public to avoid red meat have effectively reduced how safe we feel about eating it, but what the news stories miss is that red meat is, by itself, not responsible! Rather, there are a plethora of confounding factors, or factors that make the association between red meat and health difficult to read.
People who consume a lot of red meat also tend to smoke more, drink more, consume less fruits, veggies, and whole grains, exercise less, and weigh more—all factors which are strongly correlated with poor health. When the researchers adjust the algorithm to compensate for these ‘confounding’ factors, red meat no longer has any strong correlation with health (colon or otherwise), and there is no real reason to avoid consuming it.
Is the association between fiber and health the same? Does increasing fiber intake have more to do with the large dietary differences between a high-fiber diet (likely high in fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains and low in processed foods) and a low-fiber diet (like high in processed foods and low in fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains) than with the fiber itself?
In the case of red meat, headlines suggesting red meat is the culprit successfully decreased consumption of red meat, but most likely failed to get readers to engage in healthier behavior across the board, the real problem that needed to be changed. If we merely add a fiber supplement to our diet, will it be enough?
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