Researchers collaborate to find fiber's functional benefits
- Global ingredients provider Tate & Lyle has joined with APC Microbiome Ireland to explore whether dietary fiber has value beyond digestive health and could also benefit bone health, immunity and the brain, Ingredients Network reported.
- If the research establishes additional advantages, fiber's profile as a functional ingredient could be expanded, and it could be included in more food and drink products, the site said.
- The project will screen different types of dietary fiber for how they impact the health of different age groups, especially concentrating on cardio-metabolic health, according to Ingredients Network.
Should this research prove reliable and fiber shows value for enhancing bones, immunity and the brain, it would be a major benefit for ingredients companies, including London-based Tate & Lyle. Being able to advertise additional functional benefits for ingredients — and the foods and beverages in which they're used — could amount to major competitive advantages for any manufacturer or supplier.
However, dietary claims don't have to zero in on specific health outcomes, Ingredients Network said. Researchers at Ireland's Teagasc Food Research Centre in Ireland — part of the APC group — have suggested food makers consider looking into health claims for ingredients shown to increase gut microbial diversity in general.
Consumers are likely to respond to any or all of those functional claims, since they're looking for healthier products with added natural fiber — and also seeking out more transparency from brands and ingredients. Gut health has become a big trend in recent years, with prebiotics, probiotics and fiber touted as important ingredients to support it.
Research shows dietary fiber can provide numerous health benefits, such as limiting blood glucose and potentially preventing Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and heart disease. However, most consumers don't get the minimum daily 28 grams recommended. Average consumption is about half that — 15 grams a day.
As a result, fiber is being added to all types of foods, including Activia yogurt and Fiber One brownies. It's even showing up in beverages as consumers look for healthier add-ons. As a result, consumers may believe these items are healthier due to the fiber content. According to the Associated Press, a Fiber One brownie contains 5 grams of fiber and 90 calories, while a small bag of Smart Sweets gummy bears has 90 calories and 28 grams of fiber.
Some big food companies have recently gotten in on the fiber and/or digestive health action. Mondelez's SnackFutures innovation hub recently invested in Uplift Food, a maker of prebiotic snack foods, and Kellogg introduced its HI! Happy Inside cereal with prebiotics, probiotics and fiber last year.
These manufacturers and suppliers have a lot to gain when it comes to investing in dietary fiber. The global dietary fiber market is projected to hit $11.83 billion in 2025, according to Hexa Research, indicating serious financial incentives to finding additional science-based benefits.
- Ingredients Network Beyond gut health: Researchers explore the benefits of fibre