The researchers decided to carry out the study as supplements that increase dietary fiber have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels in the general population. Theirs was one of the first studies to examine the effect of fiber in cardiovascular risk reduction for people with type-2 diabetes, they said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of diabetes-related death: at least 65 percent of diabetes sufferers die from heart disease or stroke.
This is due to higher rates of hypertension, dyslipidemia and obesity. Ninety-seven percent of adults with type-2 diabetes have one or more lipid abnormalities and 70 percent have high blood pressure.
In the 90-day, open lab trial, 78 participants with type-2 diabetes and an average age of 59 years old received two or three 5g doses of Unicity's BiosLife 2 fiber supplement drink a day before mealtimes.
According to lead author and Unicity's chief scientific officer Dr Peter Verdegem, the timing of the doses is important as, when it is in the intestines, the fiber decreases reabsorption of cholesterol from the meal. The participants' total blood cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL were measured before the study commenced to establish a baseline and at the end of the study period. Total cholesterol was seen to fall by 14.4 percent, from 215 mg/dL to 184 mg/DL. Trigycerines were also seen to drop by 14 percent.
LDL fell 28.7 percent from 129 mg/dL to 92 mg/dL and HDL rose 21.8 percent from 43 mg/dL to 55 mg/dL.
Verdegem said that the most remarkable observation was the fiber's dual effect, as pharmaceutical treatments usually only lower LDL or raise HDL - not both.
"This approach is virtually free of side effects. It opens up an alternative treatment option."
He added that the study supports the argument that dietary fiber supplements may be an alternative to statins, the most commonly-used cholesterol-lowering drugs, for people with moderately high cholesterol.
Diabetes is the fourth main cause of death in most developed countries. It affects 18.2 million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association - that is, 6.3 percent of the population. 5.2 million of these are unaware that they have the disease.
As well as dramatically increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes can also lead to blindness, renal disease, nervous system disease and complications during pregnancy.