Dietary fibre intake remains worryingly low among British adults. According to latest figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), just 9% get the recommended 30g for fibre a day.
This has prompted the FDF to launch a new industry initiative, Action on Fibre, to look at ways of increasing the availability and appeal of high-fibre foods. Backed by prominent brands, the scheme will focus on a combination of education about the benefits of fibre and R&D into adding useful dietary fibre to more foodstuffs.
One of the most useful forms of dietary fibre for increasing the fibre content of food products are fructans - plant-derived polymers of fructose. One such product supplied by Norkem is GOFOS.
It has long been recognised that fibre plays a central role in maintaining a healthy gut. Better digestion lowers the risk of developing conditions ranging from bowel cancer to type 2 diabetes.
But medical science is also increasingly revealing the much broader influence digestive health has on overall wellbeing. Our immune systems, metabolism, cardiovascular systems and even brain functioning are all thought to be affected by our guts, and by the state of our digestive tract biome in particular - the millions of bacteria that in effect run our digestive system on our behalf.
Fibre plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy balance of ‘good’ bacteria and stopping our guts being colonised by ‘bad’ bacteria that cause myriad health problems. Indeed, the role of dietary fibre is to feed our gut biome rather than us - we do not digest fibre ourselves, but beneficial bacteria do. Foodstuffs that assist our gut biome rather than our own direct nutritional needs are what we call prebiotics.
According to the FDF, and backed up by its latest figures, the message on fibre has so far failed to cut through to the public at large. It points out that much of the government’s public health policy focus on diet and nutrition has concentrated on what people should cut out of their diet - salt, sugar, fat etc - at the expense of educating people about what they need more of.
A simple solution from a complex molecule
One of the challenges acknowledged by the FDF is that traditional high fibre foodstuffs often lack appeal and don’t necessarily fit in with modern dietary habits. While work on changing those habits is important, that’s more of a long term objective. In the shorter term, dietary fibre intake can be boosted by increasing fibre levels in already popular products.
The condition, of course, is that the products still have to taste good.
GOFOS is a fructan known as a short-chain fructo-oligosaccharide (sc-FOS) - complex carbohydrate molecules found naturally in plants like chicory, onions, asparagus, wheat, tomatoes, sugar cane and seaweed. Oligosaccharides in general are classed as fibre because they cannot be broken down and digested by the human gut but are fermented by our gut biomes. They are therefore classified as prebiotics.
The big benefit of sc-FOS’s is that, as chains of fructose molecules, they are sweet - up to 50% as sweet as plain sugar. GOFOS therefore offers a dual benefit. It’s a great way to add dietary fibre to baked goods, snack and energy bars, cereals, chocolate, dairy products etc without changing the sweetness profile. At the same time, as a non-digestible substance, GOFOS has no calories, so it helps to lower the calorie count of sweet goods without detracting from the taste.
Get in touch with Norkem to find out more about GOFOS and our full range of dietary additive products.