Most Americans don't get nearly enough fiber, which is unfortunate, because a high-fiber diet may improve bowel health, stabilize energy levels and aid weight loss. It's best to increase your fiber intake by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; if that's not possible, a fiber supplement, such as Metamucil, can help. Always consult your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.
How Fiber Aids Weight Loss
Fiber adds bulk to your meals but very few calories. When you eat foods high in fiber, you can eat the same amount of food but feel more satisfied than you would after eating foods that are low in fiber. One type of fiber, called soluble fiber, turns into a gel-like substance when it comes in contact with stomach juices. This sludge helps slow down your digestion and can help you feel fuller for longer after eating. Metamucil and some other fiber supplements are made from psyllium husks, derived from the small, gel-like seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. Psyllium is up to 70 percent soluble fiber.
Some research supports fiber's effectiveness in weight loss. In a 16-week study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in June 2008, researchers divided 200 obese patients on an energy-restricted diet into groups receiving either a soluble fiber supplement or a placebo. Patients receiving the fiber supplement reported increased satiety after a meal and lost more weight than the patients receiving the placebo.
Another study, published in Obesity in February 2012 and involving over 1,000 participants, found that people who ate more soluble fiber had less visceral fat, the type of fat found predominantly around the midsection. In fact, over the five-year period, the researchers discovered that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber consumed each day, participants rate of visceral fat build-up decreased by over 3 percent.
Metamucil is marketed to relieve constipation, not for weight loss, although it may be effective for that purpose, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The supplement comes in a powder form that should be mixed with water and consumed immediately, otherwise it will become thick and hard to drink. Other available forms are capsules and chewable wafers.
Take precautions when using fiber supplements because they can inhibit the absorption of your medications. Take the supplement at least two hours before or after taking your medication. Also, do not take the full dose at first; adding too much fiber to your diet too quickly can result in digestive discomfort. Drink plenty of water when you take your supplement and throughout the day to prevent constipation.
Although there is no magic amount of fiber for losing weight, you can easily meet the recommended daily fiber intake of 25 to 30 grams by adding more fiber-rich foods to your diet rather than taking a supplement. Fill half your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables, and have a serving of whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa. Choose whole grains over refined grains, which have had much of their fiber removed during processing. Eat more meatless meals to increase your intake of fiber-rich plant foods, and snack on fruits and vegetables between meals.