In good news for manufacturers and suppliers alike, the new FDA ruling issued in June ends a period of limbo regarding the expanded list of ingredients the agency will recognize for dietary fiber claims on Nutrition Facts panels under 21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(i). This new guidance accepts the results of a host of clinical research studies that show polydextrose exhibits proven physiological benefits for human health, in accordance with the values commonly associated with the class of ingredients known as dietary fiber. 

The inclusion of polydextrose in the newly expanded list of isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates in the classification of dietary fiber provides formulators with an economical, highly functional ingredient that qualifies for label claims. Standing out from that class of fibers however, polydextrose offers unique benefits from both a functional and physiological standpoint, compared to other FDA-approved ingredients. 

In terms of calories, the FDA confirmed in its June 2018 guidance document that polydextrose contributes just 1 kcal/g versus the typical 2 kcal/gram for soluble, non-digestible carbohydrates, enabling easier formulation of sugar-free, sugar-reduced or calorie-controlled products.

Beyond nutritional or caloric benefits however, when incorporating dietary fiber, formulators need to consider solubility, ease of use and toleration thresholds. This last point is a vitally important consideration as dietary fiber intake can be linked to digestive distress. Clinical studies have clearly demonstrated that polydextrose is better tolerated than most other low digestible carbohydrates,1 opening up the range of products and usage levels for polydextrose beyond that of a typical dietary fiber. 

Functionality First

Polydextrose, in its functional capacity as a dietary fiber can help:

•    Replace sugar

•    Replace fat 

•    Reduce calories 

•    Increase fiber content 

•    Act as a bulking agent

•    Maintain ideal moisture 

Although not on the list, viscosity is yet another functional area that distinguishes polydextrose from other dietary fibers. Some insoluble fibers can build too much viscosity, whereas polydextrose builds minimal viscosity. Its rheological properties make polydextrose a versatile fiber for addition to liquid applications, including beverages, dairy drinks, yogurts, sauces or dressings, without negatively impacting product appearance and consistency. 

Color, flavor and browning can be important considerations and desirable characteristics contributed by fiber in for example, a baking application. However, other applications require a colorless, flavorless fiber that does not contribute to the Maillard reaction. DuPont offers three different types of polydextrose, including Litesse Ultra, which does not impart flavor, color or contribute to browning.  

Polydextrose is highly soluble and stable through processing and storage and can improve the mouthfeel of low fat and low sugar products. It also has low residual sugar, so it can appear in products that carry a sugar-free claim. Polydextrose can easily be incorporated into sugar-reduced, no-added sugar and sugar-free cereals, snack, bakery items, beverages, dairy products and sauces. 

Physiological Advantages

In terms of physiological benefits, polydextrose aids digestive health, acts as an effective prebiotic, has a low glycemic index and does not significantly raise blood glucose and insulin levels, thereby lowering the glycemic load. The FDA also specifically highlighted the potential weight management and satiety benefits of polydextrose in the summary of its review, noting that studies showed “a statistically significantly reduced energy intake during subsequent meals.” 

In the recently published 2018 Food & Health survey issued by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), cardiovascular health and weight loss/weight management topped the list of desired benefits consumers wish to gain from food; with digestive health not far behind. Diabetes management/blood sugar management also made the list of important health attributes consumers seek from foods or nutrients. 

Importance of Fiber

Fiber ranks high on the consumer radar, with more than 80% of all shoppers in the IFIC 2018 Food survey listing fiber as a healthy ingredient; they ranked fiber in the top three compared to all other types of ingredients. In addition, that same study notes consumers are actively trying to limit sugar intake, a plus for formulators creating reduced- or no-added-sugar products; a scenario where a dietary fiber like polydextrose can play an important role.

A previous IFIC study listed 83% of consumers expressed some concern about the lack of fiber in their diet. This is with good reason, as a typical consumer will ingest just 15g of fiber daily, only 60% or less than the Recommended Daily intake of 25g to 30g.2 

Clinical research confirms the important health benefits fibers confer for digestion, weight management and heart health. An impressive 94% of consumers related fiber intake to a healthy diet, so consumers are aware of fiber’s health benefits and are actively seeking them out on product labels. 

The new FDA ruling clears a path for formulators to take advantage of the functional dietary fibers they’re already using, such as polydextrose, and reap the benefits of label claims. For functional benefits, proven physiological rewards, nutrient and caloric concerns and for very practical, economic reasons in terms of ingredient cost, storage and use, polydextrose offers the best choice among available dietary fibers.

2Trends in dietary fiber intake in the United States, 1999-2008. King DE, Mainous AG 3rd, Lambourne CA. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 May;112(5):642-8

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