Could fibre fortification lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes?

Nutritional deficits cost global healthcare systems significant resources. Here, Kavita Karnik, Global Head of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs at Tate & Lyle PLC, presents findings of the benefits fibre fortification can bring for populations are healthcare systems alike.

Nutrition and health experts agree that a balanced diet is the best route to good health  and warn against excessive focus on individual nutrients that detract from that clear message. There is one nutrient, however, that experts would argue needs greater attention: fibre.

Understanding the fibre gap

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults eat at least 25g of fibre per day but unfortunately most people do not consume this amount, and in many cases nowhere near it. In fact, UK adults consume just 19g of fibre per day on average, significantly less than the recommended amount, with only nine percent of individuals currently meeting the daily target.

Busy lifestyles, widespread lack of knowledge about how to read and understand food labelling, and a reluctance to ‘take the medicine’ by consuming wholesome, brown and ‘boring’ foods all contribute to the gap between fibre intake and dietary recommendation. We call this the “fibre gap”.

Some people have already swapped white bread for brown and have upped consumption of other high fibre foods, like wholemeal pasta, beans, nuts, lentils, fruit and vegetables. Yet it remains challenging for most people eating a typical western diet to meet their fibre needs without consuming excess calories, which would not be helpful given current obesity rates.

Consumers are far more likely to eat foods fortified with fibre when they enjoy the taste, helping to boost their fibre intake and enhance their overall health. This is where fortification of the everyday foods that people like to eat, and are already eating, has an important part to play in improving public health. Importantly, these formulation efforts would help people without requiring significant behavioural change.