Researchers make new tool available to ensure consumer acceptance of fibre-enriched foods

When enhancing foods to capture the health promoting benefits of non-digestible carbo-hydrates like fibre, it is important to address consumer perceived gastrointestinal effects typically associated with fibre-rich diets.

Tolerable intake levels of non-digestible carbo-hydrates (NDCs), like fibre, are needed to manage consumer reported gastrointestinal effects such as gas and bloating.

Two new papers in the journal Advances in Nutrition describe opportunities for adding fibre to foods that are both beneficial to health and acceptable by consumers in terms of gastro-intestinal effects. In the first paper [1], fibre researcher Annemarie Mysonhimer working with Dr Hannah Holscher of the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign conclude that among fibres added to foods, tolerance varies widely ranging from as low as 4 grammes to as high as 25 grammes daily. They recommend that future fibre research test wide ranges of intakes, noting that gastrointestinal tolerance be measured using individual’s self-reports, such as excess gas or feeling bloated.

Many factors affect the relationship between a fibre and gastrointestinal effects, including doses tested, the form of foods, and which segments of the population are studied. As a result of the differing study designs in this area of research, food manufacturers face constraints when trying to compare fibre ingredient options to select one that provides a health benefit within acceptable consumer intestinal tolerance.

To address this challenge, the IAFNS Carbo-hydrate Committee organized a scientific session at the 12th Vahouny Fibre Symposium. Subsequently, the seven fibre experts published a perspective paper [2] recommending study designs and methods to measure human tolerance to nondigestible carbohydrates. The extensive details in this paper comprise an essential tool for planning future human fibre feeding studies. The scientists included examples of daily and weekly subjective questionnaires they recommend using in the online supplemental materials [3] so that others can easily access them for future studies. When adopted by researchers and funding organizations, the methods outlined in the paper will aid formulation of fibre-rich foods by enabling relevant comparisons of different fibre types.

According to author Dr Hannah Holscher: “Enriching or fortifying foods with fibre can help narrow the substantial gap between actual and recommended intakes. These two new papers can help food makers add enough fibre to deliver a benefit but do so in a form and at a dose consumers tolerate in terms of day-to-day gastrointestinal effects.”

The IAFNS funded the ‘Dietary Fibres and Human Health Outcomes Database’ which was used as a tool in this research [4].