The history of
medicine has more skeletons in its closet than causalities from all wars
combined. All deadly medical “innovations” begin with good intentions,
conceived and promoted on seemingly logical, reasonable, and scientific
principles. Only after millions of deaths does it become obvious that
the logic was wrong, the reasoning — opportunistic, and the science — pure quackery. If it could have happened before, it can still happen
today. And it does...
You may recall that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was all the rage until the
summer of 2002. Then, in a flash — after 15 million women were told to
stop it — the rage turned into outrage: HRT had been found to increase
the risk of breast cancer by 26%, heart attack by 29%, stroke by 41%
, and ovarian cancer by 58%.
— Oh, boy!
— Yes, a classical case of wishful thinking turning
into a Faustian bargain...
But the initial reasoning in favor of hormone
replacement therapy seemed well-intentioned and bulletproof:
This method of qualitative analysis is called deductive
reasoning, made famous by the immortal character of Sherlock Holmes.
Deductive reasoning uses a core assumption — low hormones cause aging
and diseases — to arrive at the end result — replacing lost
hormones [with patch or pill containing estrogen and progesterone -
ed.] will defer aging and prevent disease.
Deductive reasoning works well only when the core
assumptions are correct. In this case the core assumption (that low
hormones are villains) was wrong, and so were the results — more deaths
and disease, not less. The investigators had also reported that there
were “no clear benefits for those taking estrogen plus progestin on
any of the quality of life measures”, that “older women taking
combination hormone therapy had twice the rate of dementia, including
Alzheimer‘s disease.”, and that women over fifty had “two-fold
higher”  risk of developing venous thrombosis. Venous thrombosis
is the precursor to pulmonary embolism — the blockage of return blood
flow to the lungs by wayward blood clots.
As expected, the renouncement of HRT was a huge success
— by 2003, breast cancer rates alone were down 7%, and have kept
dropping ever since. And, ironically, for the first time in many years
the life expectancy of American women nudged up as well — a stern lesson
to those would-be Gods so eager to challenge Mother Nature.
This catastrophic outcome of hormone replacement
therapy brings up a troublesome question: If well-meaning doctors,
top-flight researchers, meticulous pharmacists, inquisitive media, and
stringent government overseers — irony implied and intended — could get
it so wrong on HRT, can they get it wrong again on another, even
grander-scale health improvement scheme?
By the end of this page, I'll prove to you beyond
reasonable doubt that they can. I will also explain why. Obviously, the
scheme in question is omnipresent dietary fiber. This time around,
though, it isn't just middle-aged postmenopausal women who are hooked
“on fiber.” It‘s almost all Americans, of both genders and of all ages.
And how can you not get hooked, when the “bombardment”
is so relentless? Fiber makes you regular, fiber foils cancers, fiber
lowers cholesterol, fiber prevents heart disease, fiber wards off
diabetes, fiber reduces appetite, fiber this.., fiber that.., fiber,
Though it may seem as if fibermania has been around
forever, fiber‘s mainstream acceptance as a “health food” is actually
quite recent — even more recent than hormone replacement therapy.
According to Dr. James Whorton‘s book Inner Hygiene: “The
?dietary fiber hypothesis,‘ as it was initially known, was put forward
in the 1970s, and much of it was accepted as a major addition to
medicine and nutrition by the 1980s.”
And, just like with HRT in the mid-sixties, the
promoters of fiber had applied the same Scherlokian reasoning to
“deduct” its health benefits:
And there were plenty of other seemingly bulletproof
reasons to take fiber: it's safe because it's natural; fast stools
prevent constipation; and a clean colon prevents colon cancer. A trifecta!
If not for one pesky question:
— But what would happen, Holmes, if bulky stools
don‘t actually move faster?
— I don't want to know, Dr. Watson...
There are actually two kinds of dietary fiber — soluble
and insoluble. Both kinds are indigestible, and, nutritionally speaking,
useless — not an iota of vitamins, minerals, or proteins between them.
Nothing, nada, zilch.
Once inside the body, both fibers whip up noxious
gases, toxic alcohols, and irritating acids — the common byproducts of
bacterial fermentation, which, in turn, cause equally common flatulence,
bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
For these reasons French and Italian chefs meticulously
remove skins from eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes before adding them to
a dish. Doting mothers in most of the world still scrupulously peel
plums, apples, and pears before giving them to their children, and
resourceful winegrowers from Napa Valley to the Rh?e valley spit out skins
while checking the ripeness of their grapes. That‘s because all skins
are made from insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber isn't as easy to spot and spit. It's a
polysaccharide, which attracts water and condenses into a gel-like
state, just like gelatin. Once jellied, it slows down the intestinal
propulsion and absorption of digested nutrients, including glucose,
essential amino and fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and microelements.
At best, a dubious benefit, but true.
Insoluble fiber, a cellulose, is chemically similar to
toilet paper — which also happens to be a cellulose. Just like toilet
paper, insoluble fiber absorbs water and expands up to five times its
original weight. The expansion of fiber makes stools larger and
heavier. For this reason, medical professionals call fiber a bulking
agent, and from this point on, it turns stools into a proverbial bull in
the china shop!
Insoluble fiber: The bull gets
trolling, the toll gets
The anal canal stands firmly between the bowels and
toilet bowl — sometimes too firmly. The bulked-up stools require
straining to expel them because their size may exceed the regular
aperture (opening) of the anal canal. The straining, even if moderate,
may cause a gradual enlargement of internal hemorrhoids, which line up
along the anal canal. The enlarged hemorrhoids further constrain an
already narrow pathway. Eventually, the passing of large stools causes
pain and anal fissures (as the skin tears). The pain and bleeding leads
to an incomplete emptying of the bowels.
This incomplete emptying causes an inadvertent retention of
stools, which, in turn, become impacted (large, hard, and dry), and difficult to expel.
Impacted stools cause constipation, not the
other way around. The term impacted stools is preferred over
constipation, because for most people constipation means poor
frequency of stools rather than poor quality. Thus, from a
health perspective, having impacted stools regularly is just as bad as
being irregular, or constipated.
Impacted stools and straining cause diverticular disease
— the bulging of the intestinal walls from excessive inward and outward
pressure from straining and impacted stools. The bulges (diverticula) may
trap stale stools and cause exceptionally painful inflammation. This
condition is called diverticulitis, and may require surgery. Left
untreated, it may cause colon perforation and peritonitis. Few
people survive this ordeal.
The large intestine can easily retain 5 to 10 lb of
impacted stools before they become noticeable. Long-term impaction
causes irreversible stretching of the large intestine. The extreme
outcome of this condition is called megacolon. The walls of
an enlarged colon and rectum lack tonus — which is needed to propel
large stools and complete defecation. The lack of tonus causes fecal
impaction, essentially an immovable plug. This fecal impaction requires manual or surgical removal of
impacted stools to remove the obstruction and prevent necrosis, perforation,
and other complications.
This unpleasant procedure completes the vicious circle
of indignities brought upon by that extra helping of fiber eaten a few
decades ago. All along you may still remain perfectly “regular” — because
by now, you are an expert strainer, depend on laxatives, or both.
Unfortunately, all laxatives have serious side effects. All are
habit-forming, and gradually lose punch. So the victim goes back for more
And, of course, impacted stools do not “move faster,”
either with or without fiber. The transit time for a normal stool ranges
from 24 to 48 hours, depending on how often you move your bowels. But
once the large intestine is filled with impacted stools from end to end,
the transit time slows down to several days, if not weeks.
Only the young and very healthy may experience faster colon
emptying after adding fiber, because it acts as a laxative and, for a
while, stools don't have a chance to get impacted. But only for a while.
You can determine an approximate transit time of
impacted stools by using the following straight math: The length of the
large intestine is about 5 feet (150 cm). If an observed length of daily
stools is a sizable 1 foot (30 cm), then the transit time is
five days (150 / 30 = 5). If you move bowels every other day, then it is
ten days. So much for speed.
And don‘t expect the myth of “fiber keeps the colon
cleaner” to be true, either. Fiber is fiber — no matter its
solubility. Unless it causes profuse diarrhea, it ferments 24/7 inside
the large intestine with all of the usual after-effects: flatulence,
bloating, and cramping. All three result from copious gases, acids, and
alcohols produced by bacterial fermentation.
This process isn‘t any different from turning grapes
into vinegar — except that your colon isn‘t a stainless steel tank! The
acids and alcohols produced by fermentation cause inflammation of the
intestinal lining, which is just as delicate and sensitive as the lining
inside your mouth.
The intestinal inflammation interferes with the
absorption of gases back into the bloodstream, and you end up even more
bloated, more flatulent, and more miserable. This, of course, describes
the classical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
At a certain point, intestinal inflammation stops not
only gases from assimilating, but also fluids — water, bile, chyme, and
digestive juices. Blocked digestive fluids cause diarrhea until the
intestines are flushed out clean from all the rot.
That too has a ruinous outcome — the straining to
contain diarrhea enlarges hemorrhoids and harms the anal canal all the
same as large stools. Even worse, the
exceptionally astringent bile, acidified gastric juices, and
flesh-eating proteolytic enzymes inflame unprotected mucosa inside the
large intestine and skin around the anus. That causes hard-to-heal
perineal ulcers, fissures, and fistulas. (Normally, bile, enzymes, and
gastric juices get neutralized long before reaching the large
After the diarrhea subsides, fiber is
commonly recommended to restore “formed” stools. Not surprisingly, the
symptoms of IBS — bloating, flatulence, cramping, and constipation — come back and cause diarrhea again. More fiber again? More diarrhea? And
again... And again?
If you are totally down on your luck, you may end up
getting ulcerative colitis or Crohn‘s disease, collectively known as
inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. In addition to the usual calamities
— severe bleeding, colon perforation, anorexia — the IBD raises the risk
of colorectal cancer 32 times. That‘s 3,200%. In this context,
gutting out affected intestines may be considered a life-saving surgery.
What would you rather have: an indiscreet colostomy bag or a nice
Even if you get spared from IBD, you may still — as so
many do — develop precancerous polyps, and, to top it all off,
colorectal cancer. Ironically, dietary fiber is recommended as a primary
preventive of polyps and cancer too, even though study after study has
demonstrated the complete futility of this “hit and never miss” approach.
Interestingly, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative
colitis, Crohn‘s disease, polyps, and colon cancer affect
more than any other ethnic group in the United States.
is happening because bread and cereals, especially from whole wheat, are
the primary sources of fiber in the mainstream American diet. But besides fiber, wheat flour also contains gluten
highly allergic plant protein. Ethnic groups that hadn‘t historically
consumed much wheat lack the enzymes needed to break down gluten — hence
these severe food allergies.
The intestinal inflammation caused by an allergy to gluten
is called celiac disease, or sprue. Inflammation ALWAYS precedes
ulcerative colitis and Crohn‘s disease. So what do concerned people
usually do after getting diagnosed with any of these? They, of course,
listen to their parents, consult their doctors, research the Internet,
and? consume even more whole wheat bread, more bran-fortified cereals,
and more fiber because that‘s what everyone is recommending.
It‘s also worth noting that the female reproductive organs
reside side-by-side with the small and large intestines inside a tightly
packed abdominal cavity. It‘s common knowledge that the uterus is
swollen and highly sensitive before and during periods. The unremitting
pressure on the uterus from the intestines, expanded by large stools and
gases, may easily cause the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and
dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain). (Please note that I am the first to
indentify this connection.)
According the National Institutes of Health, “An
exact cause of PMS has not been identified.” How could it be, if they
are still looking at the wrong organs and wrong causes? Feel free to add
PMS and menstrual cramps to the long list of ailments suffered by
unwitting and unsuspecting victims of dietary fiber.
Men aren‘t off the hook either. When expansion room
inside the abdominal cavity is exhausted, inward pressure from abdominal
muscles may protrude the small intestine past the inguinal canal into
the scrotum. Vigorous laughing, coughing, or straining may cause
inquinal hernias just as easily as heavy lifting. Unlike PMS, inquinal
hernia requires “repair” surgery.
After all that recounting of fiber‘s shortfalls, I
may still get an occasional earful of sour bickering:
— Mr. Monastyrsky, personally I think you are
full of crap! I take fiber, my children take fiber, and it works for
Sure it works! I never said it doesn‘t! All those
millions of women taking hormone replacement therapy also rejoiced
in its effectiveness because, for a while, it worked for them too.
Where are some of them now? In the hospital? In the grave? In the
nursing home? Living in fear?
If your beloved fiber
has, indeed, been “delivering the goods” in full and guilt-free
United States should have reduced its rate of colorectal disorders
years ago. Unfortunately, that isn‘t what‘s happening. Just consider
these telling epidemiological stats:
Summing Up the Damages
Constipation is “is one of the most common
gastrointestinal complaints in the United States.” (Source: The
National Institutes of Health, NIH)
“Hemorrhoids are very common in both men and women.
About half of the population have hemorrhoids by age 50.”  (Source:
“About half of all people over the age of 60 have
diverticulosis.” (Source: NIH)
“Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects
approximately 10-15% [25-40 million] of the general population.”
(Source: The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal
Over one million Americans are affected by
ulcerative colitis and Crohn‘s disease. (Source: Crohn‘s and Colitis
Foundation of America)
“About 25 percent to 40 percent of ulcerative
colitis patients must eventually have their colons removed because of
massive bleeding, severe illness, rupture of the colon, or risk of
cancer.”  (Source: NIH)
“Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly
diagnosed cancers in the U.S.” In 2003 (the latest available data)
141,526 people were diagnosed and 55,783 had died from colorectal
cancer. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)
“PMS is estimated to affect up to 75% of women
during their childbearing years.”  (Source: National Institutes
of Health, NIH)
The prevalence of hernias: 4.5 million people,
800,000 new cases per year. (Source: NIH)
— Oh, boy!
— But what else do you expect
from stuffing yourself years on end with a quicker-picker-upper — a
Ironically, after reading these stats, the die-hard
advocates of fiber would retort in an instant:
— They [the sick] deserve it because they don‘t
consume enough fiber.
Sure. I‘ve heard that comment time and time again before.
Just like blaming the rape victim: that tramp deserves it... So let‘s,
for argument‘s sake, add even more fiber into the mix to see what
Thanks to the incredible adaptability and resiliency of
our internal organs, the wreckage from insoluble fiber takes decades to
knock you down for good. And once you learn about its perils, it‘s easy
to avoid. Not so with soluble fiber. In the immediate realm, it‘s far
more harmful than insoluble because it‘s so insidiously stealthy.
Soluble fiber is widely used as an artificial stabilizer
and volumizer (filler) in all kinds of processed foods, such as yogurt,
cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream, preserves, jellies, candies, snack
bars, canned soups, frozen dinners, sauces, dressings, and endless
All traces of soluble fiber are always expertly
concealed from scrutiny behind obscure names such as agar-agar, algae,
cellulose gum, carrageen, fructooligosaccharides, guaran, guar gum,
hemicellulose, inulin, Irish moss, kelp, lignin, mucilage, pectin,
oligofructose, polydextrose, polylos, resistant dextrin, resistant
starch, red algae, and others.
The damage from soluble fiber is accomplished by
slowing down the intestinal absorption of water, gases (produced
normally during digestion), and essential nutrients from foods including
carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and microelements. This
property (malabsorption) lies behind soluble fiber‘s inflammatory,
diarrheal, laxative, bloating, cramping, flatulence, and malnutrition
side effects, just as described in medical references:
ferment unabsorbed carbohydrates into CO2, methane, H2, and
short-chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate, acetate, and lactate).
These fatty acids cause diarrhea. The gases cause abdominal distention
and bloating.” (Source: The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy).
The soluble fiber (either natural from food, laxatives,
or additives) is especially incendiary for young children, because their
tiny intestines need only tiny amounts of fiber to induce inflammation
and diarrhea. The natural soluble fiber in juices, purees, fruits,
vegetables, legumes, and grains is just as harmful, particularly for
According to the Centers for Disease Control and
“?diarrhea remains one of the most common pediatric
illnesses. Each year, children less than 5 years of age experience 20-35
million episodes of diarrhea, which result in 2-3.5 million doctor
visits, greater than 200,000 hospitalizations, and 325-425 deaths.” 
wonder pediatricians are in short supply...
Metamucil? — one of the most ubiquitous laxatives out
there — is made from powdered psyllium seed husks, an abundant source of
soluble fiber. A single adult dose of Metamucil contains 3.4 grams of
fiber. Two medium apples contain 3 g of soluble fiber. For a
three-year-old weighing 35 lbs, two apples will have about the same
“punch” as four capsules of Metamucil for adults weighing 140 lbs. Add
to the mix one orange (1.8 g of soluble fiber) and one kiwi (2.4 g), and
that‘s the equivalent of almost nine capsules of Metamucil for adult per
pound of body weight.
Try taking nine Metamucils throughout the
day and see what happens a day or two after tomorrow. Actually, you
don't even have to try it — just read Metamucil's
“Keep out of reach of children. In case of
overdose, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right
Think about it: overdosing children with laxatives may
get parents into family court — but stuffing them senseless with more
fiber than that which equals a safe dose of laxatives is considered good
parenting, good nurturing, and good doctoring. The ensuing diarrhea is
commonly “diagnosed” as food poisoning or “stomach bug,” and usually
gets “treated” with the BRAT-like diet, antibiotics, or both.
BRAT stands for banana, white rice, applesauce,
and toast. White rice is harmless — almost pure starch with 0.4%
fiber. Bananas and apples are abundant sources of soluble fibers well
known for their diarrheal properties — respectively sorbitol and pectin. The
gluten in toast causes intestinal inflammation. Consequentially, the BAT
in BRAT whips up even stronger diarrhea.
What do well-meaning parents
do? It‘s back for more antibiotics to wipe out the remnants of bacteria
to stop fermentation, instead of simply
excluding fiber. (The BRAT diet has been out of vogue for some time now,
but what replaced it is even worse — a regular unrestricted diet, and this
time around with more fiber.)
There are many good reasons to suspect that fiber is
behind insulin-dependent diabetes (juvenile, IDDM1). The pancreatic duct
terminates in the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine that
comes right after the stomach. The duodenum is particularly small in
young children, and can be easily obstructed by fiber. This obstruction,
even brief, may block the pancreatic duct. The ensuing pancreatitis
(inflammation of the pancreas) may cause the destruction of the
insulin-producing beta cells in the islets of Langerhans. Without
insulin-producing cells this child is condemned to a life of blood sugar monitoring, insulin
injections, and all that follows. By age 40, the mortality rate among
children affected by type I diabetes is twenty times higher than in
the general population.
Also, it‘s almost certain that fiber, particularly
soluble, is behind the epidemic of autism. According to the CDC, “560,000
individuals between the ages of 0 to 21 have an ASD [autism spectrum
disorder] and “between 1994 and 2004, the number of 6 to 17-year-old
children classified as having an ASD in public special education
programs increased from 22,664 to 193,637.” That‘s an 850% jump
just in 10 years. Autism wasn‘t even on the radar just a few generations
This dramatic increase parallels fiber‘s ascent to
prominence and its wholesale addition to children‘s nutrition — particularly with fortified wheat cereals, a main source of dietary iron
and folic acid in the American diet. Iron deficiency happens to be “an
important cause of decreased attention span, alertness, and learning --
both in young children and in adolescents” and folic acid deficiency
causes “diarrhea, depression, and confusion.” (Sources: National
Institutes of Health, The Merck Manual).
In this context, the connection between autism and
fiber is absolutely transparent: the soluble fiber in processed food,
fruits, and juices; gluten in cereals, bread and pasta; and lactose,
casein (milk‘s protein) and stabilizers from fiber in processed dairy
commonly cause intestinal inflammation. This prevents the absorption of
iron, folic acid, essential amino and fatty acids, and other critical
nutrients, which play a critical role in cognitive development. A
well-established fact is that children with autism often experience
severe gastrointestinal disorders, and that further supports this
Based on a search of the U.S. National Library of
Medicine (pubmed.gov; terms fiber and [autism or ASD], December 2007), I
believe am the first investigator to indentify and describe the
connection between the consumption of fiber and autism. Considering the
number of children affected by ASD, this important discovery has
far-reaching implications, and I am hoping that pediatric physicians
will continue to explore my findings.
Similarly, soluble fiber may be easily linked to
stunted growth, rickets, scoliosis, depression, asthma, hyperactivity,
attention deficit disorder, common food allergies, and God knows what
other pediatric diseases caused by “hidden malnutrition.” Even if
parents are providing all of the right nutrients to children,
unbeknownst to them, these nutrients aren‘t digested because of fiber‘s
interference with intestinal absorption. (The discussion of this
topic continuous here.)
Interestingly, the companies that market products with
soluble fiber — from Atkins Nutritionals to Procter & Gamble, the maker
of Metamucil — knowingly mislead the public by referring to fiber as
“net carbs” or “zero carbs.” Once inside the large intestine, almost all
soluble fiber and up to 50% of insoluble fiber gets fermented by
intestinal bacteria. The resulting short chain fatty acids are utilized
just like any other fats, and provide “in the range of 1.5 to 2.5
kcal/g” of energy. This is up to 60% more than zero, and quickly ads
up, especially when fiber intake is high. (SOURCE: Food and Nutrition
Board, Dietary Reference Intakes).
Grown-ups have their nemesis too. Consider the
“natural” remedies for regularity, such as beets, prunes, and plum juice.
are concentrated sources of pectin, a soluble fiber, and sorbitol,
a glucose derivative. Just like pectin, sorbitol is a potent
hyperosmotic laxative and diarrheal agent, hence its “softening” effect
on impacted stools.
All would be fine, if not for one little headache:
excess dietary sorbitol sneaks into the cells, and causes heart attacks,
strokes, kidney failure, deafness, blindness (retinopathy) and loss of
nerve sensitivity (neuropathy), including anal neuropathy. Once that
happens, you‘ll no longer experience the urge to defecate — although,
next to blindness, it‘s a minor aggravation.
Oh, yes — peripheral neuropathy from sorbitol is also a
contributing factor to foot amputations among diabetics. Over 80,000
rotting limbs get chopped off annually in elective surgery. Just
imagine the indignity — deaf, blind, and unable to walk to the bathroom.
— Oh, boy!
— But did you expect mercy
from stuffing yourself years on end with a killer food?
Doctors and fiber: How livestock feed became health food
Hold on, Mr. Monastyrsky. Everything you are saying is
the complete opposite of what everyone else is saying. Are you really
implying that most medical professionals are dunces? This just
doesn‘t make any sense, considering that most doctors, nutritionists,
and dietitians follow these dietary guidelines themselves. What on earth
is going on?
Yes, it may not make any sense to you in the same way
that Newton‘s laws may not make any sense to a brilliant fourth-grader,
but that doesn‘t mean that they are any less true. By questioning
entrenched doctrines and restating some long-accepted, indisputable
facts of human anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and digestion in
support of my position, I am not implying anything. As to why “everyone
else is saying” the complete opposite of these well-known facts — that‘s
a good question and deserves an explanation.
For starters, the average practitioner of the medical arts
knows about forensic nutrition (my field of expertise) as much as
I know about his or her chosen specialty. In other words, from little to
none, simply because medical fields are so highly specialized. Besides,
nutrition per se isn‘t an art form (like medicine), but a sizable branch of biology with
little wiggle room.
If this still surprises you, look at it from this
perspective: To all intent and purpose, before splitting into their
respective specialties, ophthalmologists and gastroenterologists went to
similar medical schools. They took similar licensing board exams, and
did similar internships. So, would you go to an eye doctor (who can see
just as well) for an anal exam? No? Then why would you expect a rank-and-file physician,
even a gastroenterologist, to know much about fiber — at best a footnote
in a brief crash course in nutrition a few decades ago?
Second, few if any mainstream practitioners stray far
from prevailing doctrines in order to protect themselves from ridicule,
spurious lawsuits, and loss of license and income. Not surprisingly,
most doctors practice “defensive medicine,” and are thoroughly cemented
to the dominant sources of medical information. In
fiber‘s case, most of this information happens to be wrong.
Third, the writers and editors who develop medical
textbooks aren‘t necessarily top experts in their field, nor are they
the best thinkers or top-flight researchers. And they are just as
“defensive” and conservative in their work as their core readers. And
for exactly the same reasons, none of them are really bad or
Fourth, doctors move their bowels too. Accordingly, their
private observations of their own bathroom experiences concur with
reference information and help them form strong personal biases, which
then cloud their own medical judgments and impact negatively on their
advice to patients. In other words, if you doctor sees his/her own large
stools all of the time, or has stools every other day, and he/she is still
alive, in his/her mind this isn‘t going to kill you either.
A little straining here, a little hemorrhoid there — what's the big deal?
By the time it becomes a “big deal,” most doctors are well past their
prime, and not in the mood or shape to write books or conduct research
regarding someone else‘s crap.
Fifth, the experts on fiber! While working on this
essay, I came across an interesting comment attributed to Andrew S.
Grove, the co-founder of Intel:
“When everybody knows that something is so,
it means that nobody knows nothin‘.”
That pretty much sums up
all you need to know about the experts. Am I an expert on fiber? Of
course not — I am an “expert” in forensic nutrition who stumbled into
the fiber minefield by accident. How otherwise would I dare to question
“the experts on fiber”?
Sixth, don‘t discount the institutional profit
motive. Digestive disorders reliably deliver hundreds of billions of
dollars in revenue to hospitals, diagnostic labs, imaging
centers, drugstores, and pharmaceutical companies.
According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2004 (the latest
available statistic) digestive symptoms resulted in 41.3 million visits
to doctors, 15.1 million visits to emergency rooms, and 3.6 million
visits to hospital outpatient departments. And that‘s before adding
up tens of millions of pediatric problems, millions of colonoscopies,
hundreds of thousands of surgeries, rehabilitation, and the costs of
over-the-counter and prescription drugs to treat chronic colorectal
disorders. With so much upside, the status quo will remain quo for as
long as it pays.
History of ascent: Damn the torpedoes,
let's make a buck
Ironically, the perpetrators of fibermania
are just as affected by its follies as are the perpetrated. That‘s why,
if you ask doctors what (beside losing a license) is their biggest fear,
most would tell you: becoming a patient.
Fortunately, this leaves us
with reasonable hope that the facts presented in this essay will
not be brushed under the rug — physicians, particularly in the United
States, represent a top tier of the intellectual elite and aren‘t
patsies. That was the case with hormone replacement therapy, and this
will be the case with fiber. Or so I hope.
In hindsight, fiber‘s ascent from cows‘ chew to gut
savior isn‘t surprising. Most contemporary allopathic medicine is built
on good intentions, cause-and-effect evidence, and deductive reasoning.
If 'bleeding' the patient reduces body temperature, as physicians used
to think, then let‘s treat high fever with bloodletting. If mercury
kills bacteria in nature, let‘s kill them in the body. If electric
shocks knock a person motionless, let‘s treat psychotic patients with
electric shocks. If the menopause lowers hormones, let‘s replace lost
Only later does it become self-evident that all these
methods cause more harm than good: bloodletting literally bleeds a
person to death, hence the lowering of body temperature; mercury kills
bacteria, but also poisons the body; electric shocks calm down a crazed
person, but also causes irreversible brain damage; replacement hormones
alleviate hot flashes and mood swings, but also cause heart attacks and
strokes, and so on.
When piles of corpses become too hard to conceal,
barbaric old methods get exposed and replaced with new, less
barbaric ones: bloodletting is replaced with anti-inflammatory agents,
mercury with antibiotics, electric shocks with mind-altering drugs, and
missing sex hormones with painkillers and antidepressants. As before,
the intentions are perfectly good, because the problems at hand are
pressing and urgent. And by the time new side effects start popping up,
they are already someone else‘s problem.
Surely, it wasn‘t difficult to connect “good” fiber
with “bad” stools. All one had to do is to look down into the chamber
pot. So it‘s really hard to blame the “early adopters” for making a
virtue out of necessity. Unlike harsh senna leaves or leaky and toxic
mineral oil, natural fiber sources were cheap, plentiful, effective, and
initially problem-free, especially when used in moderation. In fact, the
most famous early promoters of fiber — Sylvester Graham (1794?1851), Dr.
John Harvey Kellogg (1852?1943), Dr. Thomas Latimer Cleave (1906-1983),
Dr. Denis Burkett (1911-1993) — were the luminaries of their time. But so
was the heralded Dr. Robert Wilson, who advanced the idea of HRT in his
book Feminine Forever, first published in 1966.
Without a doubt, these “gentlemen” couldn‘t have known
back then, or didn‘t care to learn, fiber‘s long-term side effects. They
also hadn‘t anticipated that natural fiber in fruits, vegetables,
breads, and grains, which they themselves had been mostly consuming and
recommending, would soon be broadly replaced with processed food — such
as cereals with added fiber, bran-fortified breads, fiber supplements,
and fiber-based laxatives. And they couldn‘t know that these processed
foods and supplements would contain many times more fiber and be more
harmful than a natural diet.
And the pioneers of
fibermania couldn‘t imagine in their wildest dreams that in addition to
being a harmful and addictive laxative, fiber would also become a
so-called antidote to cancer, an alleged savior from heart disease, a
panacea for diabetes, a weight loss enabler, and cure-for-all miracle
food. Never mind that all of these “benefits” are just a pack of willful
Truths To Be Screamed...
Is it true that fiber speeds up stools?
“There is little or no relationship between dietary fiber and whole gut
transit time;” (Source: Rome II: The Functional Gastrointestinal
Disorders, one of the most respected and authoritative textbooks on
clinical gastroenterology; First published in 2000; )
Is it true that fiber helps people with constipation?
with defecation disorders or slow transit respond [to fiber] much less
favorably. Those with severe colonic inertia may not be helped by
fiber, since there is decreased smooth muscle contractile activity.”
(Source: ibid; the euphemism “much less favorably”
in politically correct medicalese means “much worse” — KM.)
Is it true that fiber prevents colon cancer?
Americans have been told to consume a high-fiber diet to lower the risk
of colon cancer — mainly on the basis of results from a number of
relatively small studies. Unfortunately, this recommendation now seems
mistaken, as larger and better designed
studies have failed to show a
link between fiber and colon cancer.” (Source: Harvard School of
Public Health, first original reporting in 1999) (27), (28)
Is it true that fiber prevents heart disease?
“The rate of CHD
[cardio-vascular disease] mortality was reported to be inversely
associated with fiber intake across 20 industrialized nations, but adjustment for fat intake removed the association.” (Source:
Heart Association, first reported in 1997;) (29)
Is it true that fiber prevents diabetes?
“Fiber intake has
also been linked with the metabolic syndrome, a constellation of factors
that increases the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes.”
(Source: Harvard School of Public Health, )
Is it true that fiber is effective for weight loss?
“Fermentable and nonfermentable fiber supplements did not alter hunger,
satiety or body weight in a pilot study of men and women
self-selected diets” (source: A report by Jean Mayer U.S.
Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at
Tufts University, study reported in 2003 )
underestimate the temptations of greed. When it comes to fear-mongering,
buck-hoarding, and stock-propping, anything goes — even though, as
you've just seen, it's been known for years what “bull?.” it all was.
And still is:
From the Kellogg's All-Bran Cereal web site
(December 26, 2007. Image modified to fit this page.)
But what else would you expect, when a leading peddler
of fiber-enriched cereals is still proudly
carrying the name of an
obstinate misogynist and fanatical advocate of female genital mutilation
— a honest-to-goodness concern for your daughter's, sister's, wife's,
and mother's welfare?
— May I interest you in Kellogg‘s All-Bran? Cereals? With
up to 26 grams of fiber goodness and a tablespoon of sugar in just one
cup, “You are only 10 days away from a more regular you.”
— Sure, sweet dreams!
Please share this information with your family, friends, and
colleagues. E-mail them a link to this page. It may save someone's
career, marriage, health, and life. And their kids' health too.
Rechecking, and referencing everything is my
work ethic anyway, but since this information is so incendiary for so
many people, I was extra diligent
about sourcing my analysis here with the bluest of the bluest-chip
references, so both (the analysis and the references) can easily pass
the most stringent scrutiny for scientific
rigor, integrity, and credibility.
to view the source site or document in the new window (when available). The
references for this essay were compiled in September 2007. Some of the links
may not match at a later date because publishers may revise their web
sites. In this case, try searching cached pages on Google, or contact
the respective publishers.
1. Hormone Replacement Therapy, MedlinePlus Medical
Encyclopedia (A service of the National Institutes of Health); [link]
2. The Effects of Estrogen plus Progestin on
Gynecologic Cancers and Associated Diagnostic Procedures; The Women‘s
Health Initiative Participant (sic) Website; [link]
3. Effects of Estrogen plus Progestin on
Health-related Quality of Life; The Women‘s Health Initiative
Participant Website; [link]
4. Rates of Dementia Increase Among Older Women on
Combination Hormone Therapy; National Institute on Aging (NIA); [link]
5. Hormone Therapy and Risk of Venous Thrombosis in
the Women‘s Health Initiative Trial of Estrogen Plus Progestin; The
Women‘s Health Initiative Participant Website; [link]
6. James C. Whorton,
Inner Hygiene: Constipation and the Pursuit of Health in Modern Society,
7. “The primary health benefits of insoluble fiber
relate to its water-binding capacity which reduces [speeds-up — KM]
transit time in the large bowel.” Nutrition Fact Sheet: Dietary Fiber;
Northwestern University NorthwestNutrition web site; [link]
8. Ulcerative Colitis; NIH Publication No. 03-1597
April 2003; [link]
9. Premenstrual syndrome; MedlinePlus Medical
Encyclopedia (A service of National Institutes of Health); [link]
10. National Digestive Diseases Information
Clearinghouse, a service of the National Institutes of Health;
Hemorrhoids; NIH Publication No. 02 — 3021; Feb. 2002; [link]
11. About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS);
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders; [link]
12. Crohn‘s and Colitis Foundation of America, About
Crohn‘s disease; [link]
13. Ulcerative Colitis; NIH Publication No. 03-1597
April 2003; [link]
14. Colorectal (Colon) Cancer Statistics; Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention; [link]
15. Premenstrual syndrome; MedlinePlus Medical
Encyclopedia (A service of National Institutes of Health); [link]
16. Malabsorption, The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and
Therapy, 18th Edition (on-line);
17. The management of acute diarrhea in children:
oral rehydration, maintenance, and nutritional therapy. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention; MMWR 1992;41; (No. RR-16):(inclusive page
18. Metamucil Fiber FAQ; What is the dosage/serving
size for Metamucil? Procter & Gamble; [link]
19. Enrico Portuese, MPH, Trevor Orchard, MD,
Diabetes in America, 2nd Edition, Mortality Ib Insulin-Dependent
Diabetes, Chapter 10, p. 221; [link]
20. Autism Information Center; Prevalence of Autism
Specter Disorders; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; [link]
21. Iron deficiency anemia ? children; MedlinePlus
Medical Encyclopedia (A service of National Institutes of Health);
23. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy,
Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino
Acids (Macronutrients) (2005) Food and Nutrition Board, National
Academies Press; [link]
24. National Diabetes Fact Sheet; United States,
2005; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
page 7; [link]
25. Digestive Disorders; National Center for Health
Statistics; a service of CDC; [link]
26. Functional Constipation; C3: p. 389; Rome II: The
Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders by Douglas A. Drossman (editor);
27. Fiber. Start Roughing It; The Harvard School of
Public Health Nutrition Source; [link]
28. Fuchs CS, Giovannucci EL, Colditz GA, et al.
Dietary fiber and the risk of colorectal cancer and adenoma in women. N
Engl J Med 1999; 340:169-76; [link]
29. Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD; Circulation.
1997;95:2701-2704. The American Heart Association; [link]
30. Fiber. Start Roughing It; The Harvard School of
Public Health Nutrition Source; [link]
31. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J.
Nutr. 133:3141-3144, October 2003; [link]
31. Kellogg's All-Bran Cereal; The Scoop on Fiber;
Kellogg NA Co.; [link]
32. Kellogg's All-Bran Cereal; 10 Day Challenge;
Kellogg NA Co.; [link]