Supplements vs. Whole Foods
As previously mentioned, this question (are fiber supplements enough) is not fully explored by research, and is difficult to definitively answer. At least one study suggests that soluble fiber supplements, like psyllium husks, can have a mild but significant effect on body fat redistribution—they move fat away from the belly and towards other, less metabolically dangerous areas. However, the same study failed to show any significant difference in total fat, BMI, insulin sensitivity, or blood lipids (excepting LDL cholesterol) after 6 weeks, suggesting that there is something in whole foods which goes above and beyond the efforts of fiber.
Another study, which replaced the rice in participants’ diets with high-beta-glucan barley instead (beta-glucan is a soluble fiber found in oats and barley), showed a significant decrease in BMI, waist circumference, and belly fat when compared to the placebo (just rice). While barley is a whole grain, so is rice—in this case, the main difference between the diets that we may observe is that barley is much higher in soluble (and insoluble) fiber, which suggests that fiber does play an important role in-and-of-itself after all.
[Note: Barley contains gluten, so if you are avoiding gluten you should not consume it.]
In the end, we don’t really know if a fiber supplement will help by itself, though it certainly won’t hurt. My personal recommendation is to increase your consumption of high-fiber foods first, particularly fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains, and add a fiber supplement to ‘supplement’ this diertary change. These four categories of food contain many more nutrients than fiber alone—vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals—all of which may also have beneficial effects on your weight and metabolism.
A fiber supplement can supplement the diet (this is a recurring theme for supplements!), but it should not be the ‘change’ you’re making in order to increase health, no more than cutting out red meat but not eating more veggies should be the change you make to improve colon health!
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