New research from Rutgers University suggests that consuming a fiber-rich diet could help control blood sugar among people with Type 2 diabetes, Nutra Ingredients reports.
Published in the journal Science, the study found that a diet high in whole grains, traditional Chinese medicinal foods and prebiotics promoted specific gut bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids. These bacteria increased hormones that stimulate insulin production, leading to better glucose control. In the study, 89% of those following the high-fiber diet achieved adequate glycemic control, compared to 50% in the control group.
The study suggests products containing particular fibers that target this group of gut bacteria could be used to treat those with Type 2 diabetes. The researchers said their findings could lead to a new approach to personalized nutrition that changes the gut ecosystem to improve health.
Fiber is already known to have numerous health benefits, including controlling blood glucose and possibly preventing Type 2 diabetes, as well as helping stave off colon cancer and heart disease. But most Americans still fall far short of the recommended minimum of 28 grams of dietary fiber they need each day. Average consumption is about half that — 15 grams a day.
This is not the first time researchers have outlined this reaction, where dietary fiber produces short-chain fatty acids, leading to health benefits. Earlier research has suggested fiber could even help strengthen bones through this process.
Studies on the numerous benefits of fiber have helped overhaul its image in recent years. Once associated mainly with older consumers who wanted to stay regular, consumers of all ages are now adding fiber to their diets — particularly with an eye on preventing health conditions associated with weight gain and obesity, including Type 2 diabetes.
Dietitians have tended to recommend natural sources of fiber — such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and minimally processed whole grains — but food companies have been eager to capitalize on fiber’s health benefits. Cereal manufacturers have turned to added fiber as sales have slumped in an effort to woo back consumers from other breakfast choices, such as smoothies and protein bars. And fiber is also cropping up in less obvious categories — such as Fiber One ice cream and Activia yogurt — much in the same way that protein has permeated the food and beverage space.
Apart from fueling general interest in high fiber products, this latest research could also spur the development of more personalized nutrition products aimed at diabetics, perhaps fortified with a particular combination of grains and fibers to help control blood glucose. Diabetes frequently has been identified as a condition that could benefit from the personalized nutritional field because those with it may need to take a slightly different approach to healthy eating. This could also be an opportunity for manufacturers to communicate another value-add on their product packaging and position their products as better-for-you.