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Fiber and Digestive Wellness

Digestive Health Digestive Health

Nutrition Industry Executive (NIE) magazine contacted Dr. Wendy Dahl, associate professor Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Florida, with questions regarding digestive health. Here, she worked with Best Cooking Pulses, Inc., (headquartered in Portage la Prairie, MB, Canada), www.bestcookingpulses.com, to respond. (Stauber is the preferred nutraceutical distributor of Best Cooking Pulses ingredients.)

NIE: What is the state of the market for natural ingredients for digestive health. Why are digestive issues so prevalent?

Dahl: Lower fiber intakes are associated with not only constipation but also inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and many chronic diseases. The average intake of fiber in U.S. is low, only about 17 g per day, compared to recommendations of 21 to 38 g per day. Low fiber intake is contributing to digestive issues. Higher dietary fiber intake may improve digestive health. In addition, dietary fiber may increase the diversity of gut bacteria and this may be protective against disease. Optimizing gut bacterial diversity may be achieved through dietary fiber ingredients containing complex fibers versus isolated functional fibers that often have specific, but limited effects on the gut bacteria.

NIE: What are the best ingredients for maintaining healthy digestion? Who are the consumers for these ingredients and products?

Dahl: Consuming a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, providing and adequate intake dietary fiber, is ideal for healthy digestion. However, with our busy lives, dietary restrictions, fresh food costs and other resource limitations, it is difficult for many of us to consume enough of these healthful foods each day. Added dietary fiber ingredients help us meet our fiber needs and thus, maintain a health digestive tract as well as promote wellness. Consumers of foods with added dietary fiber ingredients range from children, who will see digestive health benefits from foods such as breakfast cereals, breads, crackers and other foods enhanced with added fiber, to older adults who typically have lower food intakes and less appetite and thus, will greatly benefit from fiber-enhanced foods for digestive health and overall wellness. All age groups may potentially benefit from higher dietary fiber intakes and its reduced risk of chronic disease.

NIE: What ingredient(s) do you recommend? What is its mechanism of action?

Dahl: Best Cooking Pulses BEST Pea Hull Fibers. Pea hull fiber is considered a dietary fiber by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). It is primarily an insoluble fiber that has been shown to improve laxation in children, adults with chronic disease, and older adults. Current research is examining the effects of pea hull fiber on appetite, gastrointestinal wellness and decreasing inflammation of chronic disease.

NIE: Has this ingredient evolved or changed in recent years?

Dahl: BEST Pea Hull Fiber is 90 percent total dietary fiber and has a much cleaner flavor and aroma than even five years ago. There is also a greater understanding of how it impacts health and in particular its impact on gut microbiota.

NIE: What scientific research are suppliers and manufacturers interested in?

Dahl: There is interest in pea hull fiber’s impact on gut microbiota, the commensal bacteria that live in our gut. This of interest as the balance of microbiota in our gut is related to health and the risk of a disease – the list of diseases related to microbiota is growing. Not only are digestive diseases linked to microbiota, but also chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, kidney disease and possibly even such conditions as anxiety and depression. Current research is testing whether pea hull fiber positively impacts gut microbiota and health outcomes.

NIE: Is there other news or trends in this category?

Dahl: Many isolated, functional fibers have been tested in human studies, however, many lack the beneficial health effects required by FDA. Dietary fiber ingredients are more complex in structure and thus, may have more, far reaching effects on digestive health, wellness and risk of disease. Demand for dietary fiber ingredients is expected to increase given they are natural ingredients that do not require FDA approval to be considered fiber.