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It’s long been understood that fiber is good for us–it staves off colds and keeps our heart and digestive system in working order. But while the benefits are understood, it’s never been clear why fiber is so great. New research seeks to answer that question by addressing the role of fiber inside our guts.
The term “dietary fiber” refers to indigestible molecules, but they are indigestible only to us. The gut contains hundreds of species of bacteria which comprise part of the human microbiome. Some of these microbes carry the enzymes that break down various kinds of dietary fiber. By keeping these enzymes well-fed with fiber, we protect our intestinal wall. We also allow our guts to regulate themselves, sending signals to kill off unwanted bacteria and prevent inflammation. Fiber may even reverse obesity.