Add fiber to whole grains

by Donna Berry
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Research shows many Americans believe that when they consume a product containing whole grains
they also are getting a generous dose of fiber, which more often than not, is not the case, according to a group of nutrition experts who met in Chicago this past October. As a result, the group recommended whole grain products are an ideal food to be supplemented with fiber food ingredients in order for them to qualify as “good” or “excellent” sources of fiber.

The public health implications of inadequate fiber intake prompted the formation of October’s roundtable meeting of nutrition researchers, edu-cators and communicators entitled “Filling America’s fiber gap: Probing realistic solutions.” The meeting was sponsored by the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., and a synopsis of the meeting was first published on-line on May 30, 2012. It will appear in print in the July 2012 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

The group, which included Roger Clemens, Ph.D., current president of the Institute of Food Technologists, and adjunct professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy in Los Angeles, met with the shared interest of identifying challenges and realistic solu-tions for translating current fiber guidance into practical advice for obtaining fiber from a variety of sources, both whole and enriched, in order to help Americans better meet their daily fiber recommendation. The meeting included presentations by the participants, with a focus on their areas of expertise related to the public health concern about low-fiber intakes, followed by discussions of the challenges of adhering to current dietary guidance, and opportunities for filling the fiber intake gap.

Consideration of the effects on energy intake was also a focus because of the emphasis on energy balance in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.

“All of us agreed that all fiber-containing foods should play a role in helping Americans meet their daily fiber needs,” Dr. Clemens said. “With evidence that fiber intake is closely linked to energy intake, there was recognition of the challenges of increasing fiber while attempting to reduce energy intake, as is the goal for many who are overweight.

“This prompted the need to focus solutions on immediate and realistic small-step changes that could be implemented within current eating patterns. Considering that nearly all Americans fall short of meet-ing their fiber needs, yet meet or exceed their daily recommendations for grain-based foods, our discussions centered on opportunities to improve the fiber content of and choice of foods within this group as a strategy with an immediate potential for increasing fiber intakes without exceeding energy goals.”

Dr. Clemens said the round-table experts agreed there is a great deal of confusion among consumers and even many nu-trition authorities regarding the relationship between whole grains and fiber. To help differ-entiate and reduce confusion, there is a need in future research and education to clearly delineate between the two terms to avoid the interchange of the food (whole grains) with the nutrient (fiber) and to provide clearer direction for choosing grain foods that provide at least a “good” source of fiber.

He cited the example of the updated nutrition standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs that include new directives that all grains must be “whole-grain rich,” yet do not address a fiber requirement for defining a food that is “whole-grain rich.”

“By not using fiber as a marker of whole grain quality, this could be a missed opportunity for clarifying the role of fiber in providing key health benefits in whole grains,” he said.

The amounts of fiber in grains, fruits and vegetables recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, to close the fiber intake gap vary considerably, and many choices within these food groups are not considered “good” or “excellent” sources of fiber, and therefore won’t help close the gap, explained Dr. Clemens. This is why modifying grain-based foods makes sense.

“Americans are already meeting, or for that matter, exceeding, daily total grain recommendations; thus, a shift from low-fiber to higher-fiber grain-based foods may be an achievable public health goal,”
Dr. Clemens said.

Further supporting the idea of boosting the fiber content of grain-based foods are results from a modeling exercise using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2006 that measured the effect on calorie intake when fiber-containing foods Americans are currently eating were increased to meet fiber recommendations (maximum increase of five times current intake). Although fiber intake increased in all adults to 28.5 grams per day, the calorie intake increased by more than 1,000 calories per day. Alternatively, by adding fiber food ingredients to grain foods that are naturally low in fiber to make the foods have 2.5 grams or 5 grams of fiber per serving, men and women increased daily fiber intakes to 25 and 39 grams, respectively, without increasing calories.

Adding fiber to grain products is not a new concept, as many bread and cereal manufacturers have included oat fiber, beta-glucan and psyllium in their product formulations.

What is a 21st century phenomena is the inclusion of novel fiber food ingredients such as inulin, soluble corn fiber and resistant maltodextrin.

The roundtable experts agreed more emphasis needs to be placed on consuming adequate fiber, regardless of whether fiber occurs naturally in food or is added. Both forms become part of the total fiber content of the food and both can have a positive effect on human health, said Dr. Clemens.

It’s no wonder that the second edition of “Fiber food ingredients in the U.S.,” published by Packaged Facts, a division of Marketresearch.com, Rockville, Md., said the market for all types of fiber food ingredients will increase indefinitely, as the market for fiber-enhanced foods is still in its infancy. The report said the addition of fiber to grain-based foods is driving the growth and will continue to do so. Further, there is a great deal of room for growth across almost all food categories, which presents an opportunity for the many — more than 50 — different fiber food ingredients currently available to formulators.

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