Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

In her entertaining column, Andrea Burgener said there was “not one piece of research which shows that eating fibre or whole grains causes fewer incidents of cancer or heart disease” (“Standing up to the breakfast police”, July 12). But there is substantial evidence that high-fibre diets are associated with better health outcomes, adjusting for other factors.

Burgener correctly points out that association is not causality. However, she then commits the logical fallacy that because we do not (yet?) have comprehensive proof of causality there is none. Sadly, this is wishful thinking. Moreover, there is increasing evidence of causality.

Certainly, we do not fully understand the underlying biological processes and I would not claim we have comprehensive proof. However, to say that there is “not one piece of research” is just wrong. For example, recent research into the gut microbiome shows how fibre intake influences it, which in turn has several causal effects on disease. Similar remarks may be made about cancer.

Causality is much easier to show in mouse models. Humans are long-living, with complex lifestyles and the capacity to abuse our bodies for decades before suffering the consequences, which makes research difficult. Fibre is only one part of a healthy diet and diet only one part of healthy living.

It would be a mistake to think a quick fix — eating lots of fibre each day, especially in the form of cereal — is a panacea. But it is more of a mistake to reject fibre as part of a healthy diet.

Scott Hazelhurst
Johannesburg