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Dietary fibre fortification: A simple change with far-reaching implications for human health

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Consumption of dietary fibre has fallen to well below the recommended level in Asia and the rest of the world.1​ With consumers struggling to eat enough fibre, countries are facing a raft of health problems tied to the shortfall, from digestive and blood glucose issues, to obesity and cardiovascular disease.2​ Against that backdrop, researchers have quantified how reformulating foods with additional fibre would change the diets and health of consumers.3

Evidence of a global shortfall in dietary fibre provided the impetus for the research. A paper published in The Lancet​ found people should eat at least 25 to 29 g of dietary fibre a day.2​ The study, which is in line with World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation, found higher intakes of dietary fibre may give additional benefits against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal and breast cancer. Yet, many consumers struggle to even reach the bottom end of the recommended range.

A review of the literature on dietary fibre intake suggests there is a global shortfall. At 23.5 g, the average daily intake of dietary fibre in Mexico comes close to the minimum recommended level but most nations fall well short of that threshold.4​ The average Australian consumes 20.7 g of dietary fibre a day.5​ In China, the average daily intake is 18.5 g.6​ Japan is right at the bottom of the table, with people consuming 14.5 g of dietary fibre a day, on average.7

The WHO attributes the global shortfall to the fact people are eating “more foods high in energy, fats, free sugars and salt​” at the expense of foods that are rich in dietary fibre such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.8​ In Asia, the impact of that shift in consumption habits is compounded by the nature of the dietary staples. While starchy root crops were once widely consumed in parts of Asia, highly polished rice and refined wheat flour have now cemented their status as dietary staples, driving a fall in intake of dietary fibre.9

Health will suffer as a result of the shortfall. A body of research going back decades has linked declining intake of dietary fibre to obesity, metabolic syndrome, adverse changes in the intestine, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more10–13​ Far from only acting on digestive health, dietary fibre is now being linked to effects on inflammation, metabolism, carcinogenesis and immunity pathways through its role as a prebiotic and resulting production of short-chain fatty acids.14

What reformulation would achieve

The research points to the positive impact of increasing intake of dietary fibre. While the consumption habits behind the fibre shortfall are entrenched, reformulation to fortify products with fibre presents an opportunity to counter the health risks without making people change their diets and realise near-term benefits.

Fortification with dietary fibre allows consumers to keep eating the products they prefer while addressing their need for fiber. To evaluate the potential public health impact of fortifying foods with fibre, researchers at Tate & Lyle collaborated on an analysis of how intake and outcomes would change in the event of reformulation.3

The study, details of which were published in the British Journal of Nutrition​, looked at 915 foods and beverages that are eligible for fibre fortification such as bakery products, yoghurt drinks, fruit smoothies and malt-based powdered beverage drinks.

Using data on dietary fibre intake in the UK, the researchers calculated that fortification would cause a 12.1% increase in consumption of fiber in adults and older children. The proportion of adults consuming at least 30 g of dietary fibre a day would increase from 8.0% at baseline to 12.2%. The percentage of children achieving the daily recommended intake would more than double.

Those changes in dietary fibre consumption could have far-reaching consequences. The analysts linked fortification to statistically significant improvements in mean body weight, cardiovascular risk and type 2  diabetes. Six percent of people would experience a weight reduction under the modelled scenario. More than 70% of people would have a reduction in their cardiovascular risk, suggesting the potential to tackle diseases that kill 17 million people a year globally.15

How to fortify foods and beverages

The changes needed to drive the benefits seen in the study can be made today. Tate & Lyle is supporting reformulation with PROMITOR®​ Soluble Fibre and STA-LITE®​ Polydextrose, products that make it easy for manufacturers to develop foods and beverages that address the need for more fibre. PROMITOR®​ Soluble Fibre, for example, combines superior digestive tolerance, clean taste, consumer friendly labelling, process stability and ease of use to lower the barriers to fortification.

Using PROMITOR®​ Soluble Fibre and STA-LITE®​ Polydextrose, manufacturers can add fibre to products such as functional and flavoured water, sweet biscuits and snack bars. Beverages represent good opportunities to add dietary fibre because PROMITOR®​ Soluble Fibre and STA-LITE®​ Polydextrose are fully soluble, clear, clean-tasting and bring body and mouthfeel to the product. 

Addition of PROMITOR®​​ Soluble Fibre and STA-LITE®​​ Polydextrose into foods and beverages is easy. They come in both dry powder and liquid versions, and the choice of the format depends on which is the best fit for the process and application. For instance in snack bars, the liquid version of PROMITOR®​​ Soluble Fibre and STA-LITE®​​Polydextrose can be used in place of glucose syrup which is commonly used as a binder. By doing so, you can achieve sugar reduction and fibre fortification at the same time. 

Even so, optimal deployment of dietary fibre requires expertise. Tate & Lyle helps achieve that, working closely with its customers to identify the best opportunities, build prototypes, and share advice on regulatory and labelling requirements.

Food and beverage manufacturers that partner with Tate & Lyle to access its capabilities stand to address a major cause of chronic disease. By fortifying their products with dietary fiber, manufacturers can support healthy ageing and better digestive tolerance, thereby positioning themselves for growth as consumers seek out proactive solutions to their long-term health and wellbeing. 

PROMITOR® ​and STA-LITE®​ are registered trademarks of Tate & Lyle.

References

1.      How and why to increase daily fibre intake. Tate & Lyle https://www.tateandlyle.com/fibre-gap.
2.      Reynolds, A. et al. Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Lancet 393, 434–445 (2019).
3.      Canene-Adams, K. et al. Estimating the potential public health impact of fibre enrichment: a UK modelling study. Br. J. Nutr. 1–7 (2022).
4.      Flores, M. et al. Dietary patterns in Mexican adults are associated with risk of being overweight or obese. J. Nutr. 140, 1869–1873 (2010).
5.      Fayet-Moore, F., Cassettari, T., Tuck, K., McConnell, A. & Petocz, P. Dietary Fibre Intake in Australia. Paper I: Associations with Demographic, Socio-Economic, and Anthropometric Factors. Nutrients 10, (2018).
6.      Wang, H. J. et al. Trends in dietary fiber intake in Chinese aged 45 years and above, 1991–2011. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 68, 619–622 (2014).
7.      Katagiri, R. et al. Dietary fiber intake and total and cause-specific mortality: the Japan Public Health Center-based prospective study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 111, 1027–1035 (2020).
8.      Healthy diet. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet.
9.      Anne Marie Thow, Penny Farrell, Matthias Helble, Cut Novianti Rachmi. Eating in Developing Asia: Trends, Consequences and Policies. https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/institutional-document/633886/adou2020bp-eating-developing-asia-trends.pdf.
10.    McRae, M. P. Dietary Fiber Intake and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. J. Chiropr. Med. 17, 44–53 (2018).
11.    Van Itallie, T. B. Dietary fiber and obesity. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 31, S43–52 (1978).
12.    Zou, J. et al. Fiber-Mediated Nourishment of Gut Microbiota Protects against Diet-Induced Obesity by Restoring IL-22-Mediated Colonic Health. Cell Host Microbe 23, 41–53.e4 (2018).
13.    Threapleton, D. E. et al. Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 347, f6879 (2013).
14.    Lewis, G. et al. Dietary Fiber-Induced Microbial Short Chain Fatty Acids Suppress ILC2-Dependent Airway Inflammation. Front. Immunol. 10, 2051 (2019).
15.    Cardiovascular diseases. (2022).