Feeding the nation: fibre

Monday, 18 February 2019

The Department of Health recommends that adults consume 30 g dietary fibre a day. However, on average, we consume much less than this – about 19 g per day.

Low consumption may have implications for public health since there is consistent evidence that higher-fibre diets are associated with reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer, and fibre can improve digestive function by reducing constipation.

Fibres are carbohydrates that are not digested or absorbed in the small intestine. Instead, they reach the large intestine, where they may be broken down by bacteria, fermented or excreted.

As we are not getting enough fibre as a nation, AHDB, on behalf of UK farmers, growers, processors and others in the supply chain, has been working together with IGD and partners from across the industry to start addressing the problem.

The result of this work is an IGD interactive guide, published in November 2018, to help food processors and retailers encourage increased fibre in UK diets, through product reformulation, new product development and promotion.

Cereals and cereal products, fruit, vegetables and potatoes with skins on are all important sources of fibre: the UK’s cereals and oilseeds farmers play a vital part in keeping the nation moving, as it were.

Health benfits

The IGD document includes guidance on EU-authorised health claims, which help companies communicate product benefits. For example, packaging on food that provides at least 1 g of the fibre beta-glucan from oats or barley per quantified portion can include a message like this:

“Oat (or barley) beta-glucan has been shown to lower or reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.”

Beta-glucans are found chiefly in the cell walls of fungi and plants, especially oats and barley.

Movements in the markets

According to IGD, growing numbers of product developers are exploring how to use fibres to reduce the sugar, fat and calorie content of food and drink products. This could be an area to watch in the future.

Download the guide

This article is taken from Grain Outlook, spring 2019