Fiber: A Food Supplement to Swear By

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Alethea Boire dieted without success her whole life starting with the Cabbage Soup Diet at age 13.

"I remember trying Weight Watchers when I was a little bit older like late teens, early twenties -- tried the whole Atkins phase -- tried just sort of calorie restriction. Exercise has never been a problem for me, so it wasn't a matter of not exercising," she said.

It wasn't until she discovered the benefits of fiber that Alethea was able to lose weight, and keep it off.

Fiber is helping turn Ed Graf's health around, too. He's a diabetic, who had to take huge amounts of insulin.

"He was in a terrible state. His sugars were still way out of control and he was going into heart failure. His triglycerides were so high it was almost lethal," Dr. Michael Lyon of the Canadian Center for Functional Medicine said.

Both Alethea and Ed were helped by a special fiber combination primarily taken from the root of an Asian plant called konjac. It's called PGX, or polyglycoplex.

Most dietary fiber comes from fruits and vegetables, grains, and beans. Oatmeal has quite a bit and some pasta even has extra fiber added.

Getting lots of fiber helps fight heart disease, diabetes, weight-gain, and perhaps even Alzheimer's. And don't forget that it keeps you regular.

The benefits of fiber have lead doctors to suggest people should consume an ounce a day, about 30 grams. The best bet might be twice that much: two ounces, roughly 60 grams.

But there is only a little fiber in most foods. Even high fiber foods contain only a few grams per serving.

To get enough, consumers often turn to products like Metabolic Modulator or Ultimate Fiber or the well-known Metamucil.

But currently, PGX appears to be the most powerful fiber in the world. Why? It attracts water like crazy -- 200 times its own weight.

So with just half an ounce "you can add about six pounds of food volume to your diet without adding any additional calories," Lyon said. "So you can well imagine six pounds of food would be a lot of fullness in your stomach, and it's easy to eat a lot less."

That's how Boire and her husband Tyson found success. They took about a third of an ounce of PGX each from meal replacements for breakfast and lunch. For dinner they had a regular meal.

"We changed some of our portions. Rather than having a huge plate of pasta, we'd have a little bit of pasta and chicken breast and some broccoli and salad. So still eating lots, and then of course every two weeks weighing ourselves and seeing the scale go down," she said.

And the couple did lose significant weight - fat, not muscle.

"He ended up losing about 50 pounds in about six months," Alison said of her husband. Alison herself lost 40 pounds.

Dietitian Veronica Kacinik helped the Boires understand that success against hunger gone awry is a combination of eating strategies.

"Like eating high volume foods, adding PGX to your diet, eating every four hours, having snacks between meals. You can control that and thereby not overeat at your next meal," Kacinik said.

And Lyon considers it the only safe therapy for reducing appetite among the growing numbers of obese children.

"Because it really is just a dietary fiber supplement, it's perfectly safe to give to kids," he said. "In my experience, the effectiveness in kids is quite dramatic. Kids respond to it very, very well."

There's another benefit to PGX besides the sheer volume.

"It also creates a situation where it mixes with food and it creates a very thick sort of gel so the food doesn't digest as quickly and blood sugar doesn't surge after your meals. Blood sugar tends to rise more slowly and not as high," Lyon said.

With blood sugar off the roller coaster, your body sends fewer signals to your brain that you need to eat.

Lyon said, "But when your brain is telling you to eat and to just lie still, it's hard to fight against your own brain. What we find with PGX is - at most - within a few weeks their brain is back on their side again."

And that balanced blood sugar is just what the doctor ordered for diabetics like Graf. He had been facing heart problems, sleep disturbances and an inflamed pancreas.

"I can live a more normal, lifestyle. A better energy level, I'll live longer. And actually it's less cost to society really," Graf said.

Since he started taking the special fiber, he's been able to reduce his insulin dosage dramatically.

"He's just more like his old self," said his wife Teresa. "He's so much healthier; I'm not worrying about him all the time."

So PGX has the potential to extend the lives of millions of diabetics and save millions of dollars in insulin alone.

Lyon says it's important for everyone to consume a variety of fiber sources - even as scientists suspect there are additional benefits yet to be discovered.

Almost everybody needs more fiber in their diets. So whether it's the pectin in an apple or a specialty fiber product, fiber is a key to good health.

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