Hana Kahleova, MD: Plant-Based Fibers and Nutritional Supplements


While many often turn to vitamins and nutritional supplements for nutrients their diet lacks, some argue this is not enough to make up for the missing nutrients.

No debate in medicine has been as hotly-contested and researched as the impact of nutrition and dietary intakes on the health of patients.

With new studies constantly challenging or adding evidence to confirm notions regarding the impact of certain nutritional substances and whether those benefits could be derived elsewhere, the true impact of plant-based foods on a patients overall health is often muddied.

Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has led and took part in a number of studies examining the impact of plant-based diets on various aspects of a patient’s health — at ADA 2019, Kahleova presented a study that examined the impact of plant-based diets on weight loss and gut microbiota.

Kahleova recently sat down with MD Magazine® to talk about her work and whether or not nutrients and fiber derived from plant-based foods can be replicated through nutritional supplements.

MD Mag: Can patients substitute plant-based fiber and nutrients with those derived from nutritional supplements?

Kahleova: Great question. Can you get the same benefits from just taking a fiber supplement versus a plant-based diet? Well, the answer is no — these are not the same. So, if you take a fiber supplement it's still better than the Western-type of a diet, but you will get more benefits from the plant-based diet where you don't only get fiber you also get antioxidants and other phytochemicals that are working synergistically — however, the good news is that even if you decide not to go 100% vegan you can still find ways to increase the consumption of plant foods.

It's about being a little bit more flexible, about opening your mind to other possibilities. Nowadays, there are so many restaurants that offer delicious options so it's about experimenting a little bit and finding out what works for you. Some people like legumes more than, for example, whole grains or vegetables. So, that might be your way to increase the consumption of fiber. If you're Mexican you might just increase your consumption of rice and beans, for example. If you're Indian, it might be tofu that's consumed more. There are just different foods how to that enable you to increase the fiber intake.

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