Eating wholegrain foods that contain dietary fibre could reduce the risk of contracting a range of deadly diseases, including diabetes and cancer, a study has concluded.

Around eight out of ten people in Ireland do not get enough fibre in their diets.

The risk of contracting "a wide range" of communicable diseases, including heart disease, could fall by as much as a third with a diet containing grains, pulses and wholegrain bread.

Experts from the University of Otago in New Zealand looked at clinical trials and studies conducted over the past four decades involving more than a million people with the findings published in the Lancet.

For every 1,000 participants in the 243 studies and trials, the impact of consuming higher fibre intakes translates into 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease when compared to those consuming lower fibre diets.

Dr Andrew Reynolds, lead author of the study, says the results showed there was clear evidence people should increase their intake of fibre.

He said: "Our research indicates we should have at least 25-29g of fibre from foods daily, although most of us currently consume less than 20g of fibre daily."

The study was commissioned by the World Health Organisation, which is looking at the development of new recommendations for optimal daily fibre intake.

Co-author professor Jim Mann said: "This study is essential as there is increased public confusion over what to base our meal choices on, and the impact our dietary choices have on our risk of certain diseases."

Researchers also found people who increased the amount of fibre in their diet had lower body weight, and total cholesterol.

Prof Mann said: "We also found an overwhelmingly positive effect, with high fibre diets being protective against heart disease, diabetes, cancers and measures of mortality."