In May 2005, when consumers were asked by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation to list "foods or food components that reduce the risk of a specific disease or health concern," the top 10 most healthful foods mentioned (on an unaided basis) included fiber in fourth place, whole grains in seventh place, and oats, oat bran and oatmeal were mentioned in eighth place. Irrespective of their answers, Americans only ingest 15g/day of fiber compared to the recommended 25g-38g/day. The latter mirrors the adequate intake (AI) value instituted by the Institute of Medicines' Food and Nutrition Board in 2002, and was adopted as part of the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
"There is no way Americans can [consume the AI] using traditional menus," says George Fahey, Jr., PhD, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois. "Numerous studies have provided indisputable evidence that additional fiber in the diet helps to reduce coronary heart disease (CHD)." Since fruits and vegetables are mostly water, eating those types of foods is only one method by which to increase fiber, he extrapolates.
Another IFIC Foundation study, fielded in November 2005, found "about 48% of Americans are looking for the kind of statements that would be considered a nutrient content claim, and 30% are looking for diet-disease relationships," says Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD, director of health and nutrition for IFIC.
While fiber is a focus for marketers, consumers may not completely understand the importance of fiber in the diet, or be willing to make the necessary dietary changes to eat more of it. As evidence, Dieting Monitor®, also part of The NPD Group, reports that the percentage of people who looked for dietary fiber on package labels increased by only 0.5% to 22% between 2004 and 2005. First and foremost, shoppers are looking for something that tastes good.
When word hit the streets that the USDA would increase recommendations for whole grains and fiber, manufacturers began to "choc out" a slew of new products of varying "tastefulness."? For example, ConsumerReports.org (CR) reported that New World Pasta's Ronzoni-brand Whole Wheat Blend of Healthy Harvest Penne Rigate had an al dente texture like that of regular pasta.
A Passing GradeInterestingly, in the U.S., there is no formal definition for fiber. "They [FDA] say put it on [the label] even though we don't know exactly what it is," says Fahey. The FDA authorizes the following claim: "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain some types of dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease, a disease associated with many factors."
"Without a definition, there are compounds that are not analyzed by accepted AOAC methods, but which may have physiological fiber-like benefits that cannot be termed 'dietary fiber,'"? informs Fahey. In the same manner, there are compounds that can be measured by AOAC methods and termed "dietary fiber" but may not have any known beneficial physiological effects.
Total fiber is the sum of "dietary"? and "functional fiber" (see sidebar: Definition of Fiber). Dietary fiber sources contain other macro and micronutrients. If [consumers] are eating fiber sources and are thinking of only [dietary] fiber, then they are shortchanging themselves," comments Fahey.
Nixing the Nitty GrittyThe Whole Grains Council (WGC), a leading consortium of industry professionals, scientists and chefs, is working with Oldways Preservation Trust, the food issues think tank, to increase consumption of whole grains for better health. The duo has joined with Unilever's KnorrÂ®-LiptonÂ® Sidesâ„¢ to market what some say will be the first mainstream line of pasta and rice side dishes made with whole grains. Available in Alfredo pasta, chicken pasta, chicken broccoli rice and sesame chicken rice varieties, each serving will offer 4g of dietary fiber.
The WGC also sponsors the Whole Grain Stamp, three recently launched logos to help consumers identify which whole-grain foods are considered a â€œgood source,â€? â€œexcellent source,â€? or â€œ100% excellentâ€? source of whole grains.
â€œWhole grains are exploding all over the market. For a long time, consumers were more aware of fiber, but now you see the two forging ahead [together],â€? says Kapsak. Consumers see whole grains and fiber as similar ingredients, which is not entirely untrue. Eighty-eight percent of Americans view whole grains as a healthful ingredient, and 87% view fiber as healthful. â€œTheir benefits are both readily recognized, but one challenge in terms of communicating the benefits of whole grains is that whole-grain foods might not necessarily be high in fiber, but might have benefits aside from fiber content,â€? informs Kapsak.
For example, each slice of Wonder White Bread Fans, a 100% whole-grain bread said to taste and appear like white bread, contains 16g of whole grains. However, that translates to only 2g of dietary fiber per slice. Nevertheless, the product also captures calcium and nine vitamins and minerals, and the packaging touts it as an excellent source of whole grains.
Resisting Cardiac ArrestResistant starch (RS) is found in cooked and cooled potatoes, rice, legumes, under-ripe fruit, certain cereal grains and pastas. Select studies, which were highlighted at the Making Fiber Irresistible conference organized by Oldways in conjunction with an RS supplier, have shown that resistant starch can increase the body's fat-burning ability, increase natural defenses against bowel cancer, increase insulin sensitivity in healthy people and have a lower impact on blood sugar levels than rapidly digestible carbohydrates such as flour or regular cornstarch.
Insoluble fiber can lower legal calorie reporting requirements and increase satiety. Soluble fibers help lower blood cholesterol levels and control blood sugar. Resistant starch also is insoluble, but is fermented like soluble fiber, which gives it some of the health benefits of both soluble and insoluble fibers. However, for marketing purposes, â€œMost American consumers do not know the difference between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber,â€? reports Kapsak.
Beta-glucans, gums, mucilages (psyllium), pectins and some hemicelluloses are soluble fibers while cellulose, lignin, some pectins and some hemicelluloses are insoluble fibers (Marlett JA, J. Am. Diet. Assoc., 1992).
Maltodextrin, produced by the pyrolysis and controlled enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, can have a prebiotic effect because it is fermented in the large bowel. In addition, it has all of the physiological qualities of a functional fiber.
â€œBeans and oat products are by far the best natural foods to ingest to get [soluble] fiber,â€? says Fahey. The RS concentration in beans is very high. Kellogg's All-Bran Oatmeal Raisin Bars provide 20% of consumers' daily fiber needs by utilizing ingredients like wheat bran, psyllium, seed husk and oat fiber.
â€œOats are the most recognized not because consumers know that it is a whole grain, but because they have heard about its health benefits over a long period of time,â€? Kapsak acknowledges.
Indeed, another IFIC survey, fielded in May 2005, reports when unaided, more consumers (17%) were aware that oats may be a food component thought to benefit high cholesterol/heart disease than they were aware about the same connection between fiber (5%) and whole grain (4%).
It seems the health benefits of oat fiber have generated a pronounced presence in the marketplace. The label of Quaker Essentials Oat Bran Cereal boasts that the product helps remove cholesterol, is low in saturated fat and is an excellent source of fiber with nine vitamins and minerals. A 57g serving size offers 6g of dietary fiber and 2g of soluble fiber.
The fermentation products of soluble fibers can include the following short-chain fatty acids (SCFA): acetate, propionate and butyrate. Among other things, they reduce the risk of colon cancer by lowering the colonic pH, which also inhibits pathogenic bacteria.
Consumption of foods containing natural RS may help to maintain a healthy colon by both increasing prebiotic potential, which increases beneficial bacteria by increasing SCFA, and butyrate production. â€œIncreased SCFA can help rid the body of protein metabolites that are injurious to bowel health,â€? states Fahey.
Feeding the MicrofloraEarth's Promise Nutrient-Rich Greens Supplement Drink Mix is said to contain more fiber and vegetables per serving than any leading super green food. Distributed in health stores and available in peppermint tea, strawberry-kiwi, and elderberry flavors, the drink mix contains a fiber blend with 3g of inulin, a prebiotic fiber from chicory root, and 1g from guar gum seed extract.
â€œPrebiotic fibers are increasingly being recognized for their individual merits, including improving digestive health, reinforcing immunity and enhancing mineral absorption,â€? says Coni Francis, PhD, RD, scientific affairs manager for a company which supplies prebiotic ingredients.
Prebiotics are soluble fibers that promote the growth or activity of a limited number of probiotic bacteria. There is a difference between short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scFOS) and other prebiotics such as inulin. ScFOS help to reduce the level of pathogenic bacteria through competitive exclusion, improving immunity and overall well-being. Studies show that scFOS may be linked to the production of SCFAs in the colon, which may have a positive impact on a healthy cholesterol metabolism.
Inulin is not a fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) because its chains exceed 10 units. It is a polysaccharide that has some prebiotic properties. Oligofructose, a mixed FOS, is the enzymatic hydrolysis product of inulin, consisting of mixed glucose and fructose-terminated chains, varying in length from two to seven. Prebiotic fibers do not generate a glycemic response and, therefore, can be easily incorporated into products targeting a low-glycemic index. Lactitol, a sugar alcohol, also functions as a prebiotic.
Polyol Wants a Cracker
For consumers, the certainty of why fiber is healthy may not be firm, but with a clear definition of fiber and diet-disease relationship labeling, they just might begin to digest it all. NS
Sidebar: Going GlobalGlobally, the top five categories of products containing inulin include snacks, bakery, confectionery, desserts and ice creams, and dairy products. Launched out of Portugal in April 2005, Adagio SimbiÃ³tico is a mango-flavored skim milk yogurt drink marketed as a symbiotic (containing prebiotic and probiotic cultures) to help intestinal regulation. It contains inulin, which adds 1.35g of fiber per serving. Liquid yogurt varieties include strawberry & watermelon, orange, and apple & pineapple.
The U.K. division of Danone launched a new variety/range extension of Danone Activia in November 2005. The ingredient label for Danone Kiwi and cereal-flavored yogurts enriched with fiber advertises oligofructose and inulin as fiber sources. Wheat, oat and barley also are added to bring the fiber total to 3g per serving. In addition, Activia contains bifidus digestivum to aid digestion.
Fusilli pasta, a new variety of Buitoni brand pasta, was launched in Britain late last year and is said to contain as much fiber as whole-wheat pasta.
Nutrisa Fibrastasi Invisible is a new dietary supplement hailing from Mexico. It can be added to any beverage, with the exception of carbonated beverages. Reported by the GNPD in December 2005, 4.9g of a 5g serving consists of dietary fiber from the chicory root.