Now bran can be bad for you
Roger Dobson looks at how you really can get too much of a good thing
Sunday 29 March 1998
He was admitted to hospital after eating so much bran on a regular basis that it had set as a solid mass inside his bowel - and had to be cut out by surgeons.
National consumption of bran has shot up over the past decade, largely because of health messages that the dietary fibre may help to prevent bowel cancer, but doctors are now warning that they may have to set a limit on how much people should eat.
"Public awareness is at an all-time high with regard to healthy eating and current advice seems to encourage as much bran as you can palate. But we now have to think whether we should modify the advice," says Ken Shute, consultant surgeon at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, who reports the case of the bran addict in the archives of the Royal College of Surgeons.
After the operation, the patient confessed to doctors that he had become an addict as a result of publicity surrounding bowel disease and the beneficial effects of bran. "He was a well-educated man and he was admitted to the hospital with an acute small-bowel obstruction, and a large amount of solid plant matter was removed. The mass appeared to have formed as a direct result of over-consumption of bran," Mr Shute says.
One of the problems with eating too much bran is that it contains phytobezoars, large conglomerations of vegetable fibres which are probably very useful to some animals but indigestible in man where it can build up and cause obstructions in the bowel.
It is not known how many people have fallen victim to over-eating of the substance, but the likelihood is that in many cases the bowel has managed to cope with the problem.
Mr Shute and his colleagues say that it may now be time for vegetarians and the elderly, considered to be the two groups most at risk, to be given new advice on how much to consume.
"Is it safe to continue with the current philosophy where 'the more the merrier' appears to be the general medical consensus?" he asks.
Nutritionists also point out that fibre can be obtained from a variety of sources, particularly green vegetables and fruit.
Carol Sinclair, author of the IBS starch-free diet, says that there are other disadvantages with bran. "It contains phytic acid which blocks the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and vitamin B6. And because it comes from the outside skin of the grain, usually wheat, it contains a high percentage of the chemicals sprayed on the crop," she says.
The Royal Gwent patient apparently recovered without mishap - but his passion for bran, which was meant to keep him out of hospital rather than put him in, is said to have waned.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...
£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...