Public awareness of the importance of dietary fibre intake and digestive health has been growing steadily in recent years, especially considering the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Given the challenges faced by the pandemic, topics such as immunity and staying healthy have all been brought even further to the front of consumers’ minds.
Although a vast majority of the world’s population is still not meeting their daily fibre requirement , many consumers are already proactively looking for convenient food and drinks that carry this ingredient. According to recent research, the global dietary fibre market is set to flourish over the coming years — being worth $9.6 billion by 2025 — with Asia Pacific expected to witness the highest growth rate .
It is therefore important for food manufacturers to find out more about the benefits of different dietary fibres, and how each can contribute to one’s overall wellbeing so as to better cater to growing health consciousness.
Closing the fibre gap
With rapid modernisation and urbanisation across Asia, lifestyle choices are increasingly being driven by convenience. Higher affluence brings about more food choices for consumers, but the need for fast and hassle-free options mean that they rarely discern between these options. A lifestyle driven by convenience has also led many consumers to increase their consumption of processed food as they choose easy-to-prepare meals and on-the-go food — which are typically low in fibre — over freshly prepared meals, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that contribute to a well-balanced diet. Consequently, these issues help to explain the rise in digestive health issues and are the most common reasons why many people are not getting the necessary amounts of dietary fibre.
However, this does not mean that processed food or any other pre-prepared food has to be unhealthy. With the right choice of ingredients, a healthy digestive system can be achieved while maintaining one’s diet with a busy lifestyle. A case in point are dietary fibres.
Fundamentally, digestive health is closely linked with dietary fibre. The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of approximately 25 grams of dietary fibre, or at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables to ensure adequate daily intake of dietary fibre .
In addition, many studies have shown the benefits of a diet with sufficient fibre intake, including supporting bowel movement and general well-being, contributing to weight management , as well as better blood sugar management . Further health benefits can also be observed in the lowering of blood cholesterol  and the reduction of the risk of coronary heart diseases .
Promoting beneficial gut microbiota
Immunity and digestive health are also closely linked, with 70% of our inner defence system situated in the small and large intestine. It is no surprise that good health and inner protection starts with promoting beneficial gut microbiota, which can be nourished by prebiotic fibres.
Even though all dietary fibres are non-digestible, they differ in the way they function in the large intestine. They are either excreted or fermented to short-chain fatty acids by the large intestine’s microbiota. When the fermentation of fibres allows a selective increase of healthy microbiota, they are classified as prebiotic fibres.
Research has demonstrated that short-chain fatty acids, achieved through this prebiotic fermentation, can reach the brain and other organs directly through the blood, or indirectly via the stimulation of immune cells, the hormonal or nervous system and the release of messenger substances . As a result, the gut microbiota can influence digestive health, overall health, and an individual’s inner well-being.
Only very few dietary fibres are scientifically and clinically proven to have this capability. Chicory root fibre (inulin, oligofructose) belong to this exclusive group of prebiotic fibres. Furthermore, they are the only plant-based proven prebiotics.
The importance of prebiotic fibres
Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that impacts the composition and/or activity of the gut microbiota, resulting in tangible health benefits to the gut. In other words, prebiotics act as the fertiliser for the good bacteria already present in the gut — helping to contribute to a healthy gut environment as well as good digestive health.
BENEO’s chicory root fibres, inulin and oligofructose, can be easily used in most food and drink applications, thus increasing the health benefits of these foods. Obtained from chicory root via a gentle hot water extraction method, inulin and oligofructose are classified as ingredients from natural origin and can be labelled as fibre from a natural source. This is especially crucial to consumers today, who actively look for natural products when making food purchase decisions.
Additionally, there are also technical benefits to be reaped from the addition of these prebiotic fibres. Oligofructose has a mild and pleasant taste, and its fat-mimicking properties can also be used to replace part of the fat content in foods, thus creating healthier indulgent food without any major changes in its texture and taste.
Consumers have already begun to make the link between gut health, and overall health and well-being. They are more motivated to improve their digestive health to improve specific health issues — such as improving their natural defences and therefore their long-term health.
There is clearly an appetite for products that promote good digestive health among consumers, and now functional ingredients manufacturers such as BENEO are creating very real ways for food and drink producers to make the most of this trend. With so many consumers looking at ways to promote their digestive health, the market is wide open for new product development without compromising on taste and texture.
- World Health Organization (2020) Healthy diet, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet ↑
- Markets and Markets (2020) Dietary Fibers Market worth $9.6 billion by 2025 https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/dietary-fibers.asp ↑
- World Health Organisation (2015) Healthy Diet Fact Sheet, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs394/en/ ↑
- TM Barber (2020) The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/10/3209/pdf ↑
- JM Lattimer (2010) Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/ ↑
- Brown L, Rosner B, Willett WW, Sacks FM (1999) Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9925120/ ↑
- DE Threapleton (2013) Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis https://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6879 ↑
- Amy M. Brownawell, Wim Caers, Glenn R. Gibson, Cyril W. C. Kendall, Kara D. Lewis, Yehuda Ringel, Joanne L. Slavin, Prebiotics and the Health Benefits of Fiber: Current Regulatory Status, Future Research, and Goals https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/142/5/962/4630853 ↑