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Why is fiber added in literally everything?

The idea of ​​adding a little more to your fiber intake is not new: Americans have been mixing Metamucil powder into water since the 1930s. What's different now is finding more added fiber in cookies, cereals, yogurts, cereal bars, protein bars … just about any packaged snacks you can think of.

First of all: why? Second: does this added product correspond to reality? Here's everything you need to know about added fiber.

Why the added fiber appears in all

Fiber is a type of non-digestible carbohydrate found in plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and legumes. It consists of a group of linked sugar molecules that make our body difficult to break down, the FDA explains And it's an important part of a healthy diet.

There is indeed two main types of fiber, slightly different but just as great. Soluble fiber regulates the absorption of sugar and cholesterol in the blood by slowing digestion, depending on the FDA. This helps maintain stable blood glucose and low LDL, which could explain why fiber intake is related to a reduction in the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Insoluble fiber adds volume to our stools and accelerate digestion, making it a great way to fight constipation and promote bowel regularity. FDA.

Despite its proven health benefits, most of us have done poorly for fiber. the Dietary guidelines advise to aim for about 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories in your diet, so the exact number varies depending on your recommended caloric intake. Although these recommendations are rudimentary and the ideal intake varies from one person to another (factors such as your level of activity and your digestive health also play), it is useful to avoid Average American does not approach anything. enough fiber– only 16 grams per day, per National Library of Medicine of the United States. (Fun fact: that's about all that a girl aged 4 to 8 should eat, according to the Dietary guidelines.) Since fiber consumption is associated with poor health outcomes, it has been designated a "nutrient of public health concern" by the Health and Social Services (HHS) and Agriculture Departments. (USDA) of the United States.

While Americans have been turning for decades to fiber-based dietary supplements (ie functional fibers) to help them reduce the fiber gap and treat or prevent constipation, the Adding fiber to daily snacks "is a new trend in food manufacturing," Colleen Tewksbury, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior researcher and bariatric program manager at Penn Medicine and President-elect of the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told SELF.

By and large, food companies know that while the "Eat More Fiber" message is spreading, more and more shoppers are scanning nutrition labels to determine how much fiber is (or at least risky). 39, be seduced by claims of high fiber content in the front). And food scientists have developed new types of extra fiber that can be added to foods without actually altering their taste or texture, says Tewksbury. It makes perfect sense for companies to package products ranging from chips to fiber-enriched ice cream.

What is the added fiber actually is

When we talk about added fiber (sometimes called isolated fiber), we are talking about a whole set of different fiber types that are incorporated into food products during manufacturing. "They are not naturally present in foods, they are added to increase the fiber content," says Tewksbury. Often, if it is not indicated on the packaging, you can know that the food is fiber-enriched by reading the list of ingredients (to learn more about the words to look for in a minute).

The added fibers can be of natural origin, that is to say extracted from food containing fibers, such as fruit or chicory roots, or synthetic by combining different compounds in the laboratory. And they all have slightly different structures and properties. (This is also the case of natural fibers).

With all these different and unknown types of added fiber that have appeared in our food supply in recent years, the FDA has realized that it needs to standardize its definition of dietary fiber so that consumers, food manufacturers, and authorities may be on the same page. .

In 2016, the FDA have asked food manufacturers to make their best case for different added fibers to be counted as dietary fiber on nutrition labels. Their job was to show the FDA enough evidence to convince them that fiber had at least one "physiological effect beneficial to human health," he added. agency explains – such as lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increase stool frequency, increase the absorption of minerals in the intestinal tract or reduce caloric intake.

In 2018, after conducting a comprehensive study review of evidence, the FDA decided which ingredients had to support this burden of proof. Eight who made the cut: soluble fiber of beta-glucan, psyllium shell (substance present in Metamucil), cellulose, guar gum, pectin, locust bean gum, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose and crosslinked phosphorylated RS4. the FDA also plans to add a number of other fibers added to this list, and allows manufacturers to include them in their dietary fiber count for the moment until the rules are finalized. These include mixed plant cell wall fibers (such as sugar cane fiber and apple fiber) and inulin, which is perhaps the most common added fiber you currently see, says Tewksbury. . "It's cheap, you can not taste it, and it does not grow, which gives better finished products," she says. You may notice that it is indicated on ingredient labels like inulin, chicory root extract, chicory root, chicory root fiber, l & rsquo; Oligofructose or other names, according to the name indicated. FDA.

Now, if you look at the Nutrition Facts labels, the number of grams of dietary fiber indicated may include natural fibers and one of those added fibers. For example, if a cereal bar contains 2 grams of natural oat fiber and 1 gram of psyllium husk fiber, you will simply see 3 grams of fiber on the label.

How does it compare to the real thing

At the cellular level, the added fibers are very similar to the intrinsic fibers. Therefore, our body treats them, or rather does not treat them, in the same way, says Tewksbury. Whether they are naturally present in a food or added to it, our small intestine can not break down the fibers. They are thus transmitted to the large intestine, where some soluble fibers are broken down by bacteria. FDA.

The real differences come when we zoom out and look at the overall composition of many fiber-based foods. According to Tewksbury, these are usually foods that do not have many other nutritional benefits. instead of Naturally high fiber foods (like fruits and whole grains) will let you miss out on other important vitamins and nutrients.

This obviously does not make adding fiber unnecessary. Anyway, if you were going to enjoy a treat and choose one that has exactly the same taste and an extra fiber, you get a two-for-one deal. And of course, "If your diet does not contain enough fiber, an extra fiber in the form of functional fibers can help you reach your goal." Donald Ford, MD, internist at Cleveland Clinic, told SELF.

This also brings us to the delicate task of discerning the health impacts of fiber-added foods over the long term. Most FDA studies (if not most studies) reading material on the beach, if you are interested), are relatively short-term, double-blind, short-term trials comparing an added fiber supplement or a food containing this extra fiber with a placebo or control group. A number of studies show that these fibers actually contribute to improving health outcomes.

But in terms of the health impacts of the population over time, foods packed with natural fibers In general, the results are longer, says Tewksbury. We examine the correlations between fiber intake and health effects for decades in huge populations, and we have accumulated fleshy body of evidence of observation. The fundamental link that this research has established is between good health and intrinsic fiber, namely fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans – not isolated fibers. Plant foods that naturally contain fiber are exceptionally healthy in general. It is therefore difficult to determine which are the exact benefits that can be obtained in particular from the fiber of vegetables).

"The fiber recommendation is not just about the fiber itself, it's about eating fruit and vegetables and whole grains," says Tewksbury. This is why Dietary guidelines Specify specifically that low fiber consumption is due to low consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and encourage people to consume more to increase their fiber intake, and not more fiber-containing biscuits and bars added. In addition, plant-based foods almost always contain a mixture of both types of fiber, while fiber-based products added usually contain only one (usually soluble fiber), notes the Dr. Ford. This is not necessarily bad, but it does mean that you do not get the benefits of both types, especially the digestive health benefits that seem to be most strongly associated with insoluble fiber.

One more truth about added fiber

If you've discovered that eating fiber-rich cereals or biscuits makes you particularly gassy and swollen, you're not alone. This is another potential problem with added fiber: the large amount of fiber that some of these products contain. Feeding any type of fiber, whether it is of natural or added origin, can cause gas, bloating and cramps, says Dr. Ford, particularly if you quickly increase your intake or if you do not drink enough water, Mayo Clinic. And although technically you can do too much with fiber by eating oats and apples, the fiber concentration in foods that naturally contain it is usually lower – while some of those fiber-based snacks added can contain 10, 15 grams or more per serving, so it's easy to overload your gastrointestinal system in three or four bites. And if you catch a second (or third) brownie or cookie, it's just … a lot fiber. This is why you will notice that you are particularly gassy or swollen after eating a high fiber protein bar, but not a bowl of oatmeal. (If you notice that a high fiber food is hindering your stomach, maybe try a product containing a little less fiber, introducing it more slowly into your diet and drinking more water. adds Dr. Ford.)

The good news is that stomach upset is probably the worst thing that can happen to you (unless you have a gastrointestinal disorder and are told to avoid it). to consume too much fiber, of course). According to Dr. Ford, it is almost impossible to take an overdose of fiber because it is not absorbed into your bloodstream. In fact, there is no "upper tolerable limit" for fibers, depending on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), which means that the research did not reveal a fiber concentration that would have significant adverse health effects, either in terms of mineral levels or the functioning of the GI.

The bottom line on the added fiber

It's really cool that we can have a fiber intake from a taste-like dessert, but you probably should not be relying on fiber-enriched processed foods for most of your daily consumption. If you want to incorporate a little more fiber into your diet – to help with constipation or simply to increase your overall intake – and feel better looking for the fiber-enriched version, go for it. There is nothing wrong with using these foods to supplement your fiber intake (or just because you like them). "These are good options to savor as a treat or dessert that has additional nutritional value," says Tewksbury.

Do not forget that even though these foods are tasty and welcome in your diet, if you are trying to consume more fiber to improve the overall nutritional quality of your diet, it is best to rely primarily on whole foods to help you. to reach them. Dr. Ford says. In other words, do not assume that a high-fiber food is still the healthiest choice – and probably do not start trading all your fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans for fiber-added brownies.


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