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Why is fiber added in literally everything?

The idea of ​​filling up on fiber intake is not new – Americans have been stirring a scoop of Metamucil powder into the water since the 1930s. What's different now is adding extra fiber to biscuits, cereals, yogurt, cereal bars, protein bars … just about every packaged snack you can imagine.

First of all, why? Second: Does the added stuff correspond to the real business? Here's everything you need to know about fiber.

Why Fiber is All Included in Dietary fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans, and legumes. It's made up of a series of sugar molecules that are so interconnected that it's difficult for our body to degrade them, the FDA explains. And it is an important part of a healthy diet.

In fact, there are two main types of fibers which differ slightly but are equally great. Soluble fiber regulates the absorption of sugar and cholesterol into the bloodstream, slowing digestion, according to the FDA . This helps keep blood sugar levels stable and LDL levels low, which may explain why dietary fiber intake is associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Insoluble fiber gives our stool more volume, accelerates digestion and, according to FDA (19459007), is excellent for controlling constipation and promoting the regularity of the bowel. Despite the proven health benefits, most of us are far too short on the fiber front. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that you use about 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories in your diet, so the exact number varies with your recommended calorie intake. While these guidelines are crude and the ideal intake varies from person to person (with factors such as your level of activity and your digestive health, which also matter), the fact remains that the average American does not get nearly enough fiber – Only 16 grams per day, according to the USA National Library of Medicine . (Entertaining Fact: That's about the amount that a girl between the ages of 4 and 8 should eat according to the Dietary Guidelines .) Given that low fiber intake is associated with poor health outcomes, it is referred to as the "Nutrient of the Public" Health Issues "of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA).

While Americans have relied on virgin fiber supplements (ie functional fibers) for decades to close this fiber gap and treat or prevent constipation by adding fiber to everyday snack foods, "is a recent trend in food manufacturing," Colleen Tewksbury Penn, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior researcher and bariatric program manager at Penn Medicine and president-elect of the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told SELF.

Basically, food companies know that more buyers scour nutrient labels for fiber (or at least more Li) when the message "eat more fiber" seeps away from claims about a high fiber content on the front). And food scientists have developed new types of supplemental fiber that can be added to foods without really affecting their taste or texture, Tewksbury says. So it makes perfect sense that companies pack products from fries to ice cream with added fiber.

What fiber supplement really is

When we call fiber additive (sometimes referred to as isolated fiber), we are talking about a whole lot of different types of fibers that are incorporated into food products during manufacture. "They are not naturally present in food, but are added to increase fiber content," says Tewksbury. If not stated on the packaging, you may be able to tell by the ingredient list that fiber has been added to a food (more on what to look out for in a minute).

Dietary fiber can be added naturally – derived from fiber-containing foods such as fruits or chicory roots – or synthesized by combining various compounds in a laboratory. And all have slightly different structures and characteristics. (This is also the case with naturally occurring fibers, by the way.)

Given all these different, unfamiliar types of fiber that have appeared in the food supply industry in recent years, the FDA recognized that they needed to standardize their definition of fiber so that consumers, food manufacturers and regulators could all be on one side.

In 2016, FDA urged food manufacturers to formulate their best case for taking various added fiber into dietary fiber. Their job was to provide the FDA with enough evidence to convince them that the fiber has at least one "positive physiological effect on human health," such as lowering blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, or lowering blood pressure Increasing the frequency of bowel movements, increasing mineral intake in the intestinal tract or reducing calorie intake.

After a comprehensive review of the evidence the FDA decided in 2018 which ingredients would meet this burden of proof. Eight who made the cut: beta-glucan-soluble fibers, psyllium husk (the material contained in Metamucil), cellulose, guar gum, pectin, locust bean gum, hydroxypropylmethylcellulose, and cross-linked phosphorylated RS4. The FDA also plans to add a number of other added fibers to this list, allowing manufacturers to include them in their fiber count until the rules are finalized. These include mixed plant cell wall fibers (such as cane fiber and apple fiber) and inulin, which are currently the most commonly added fiber, according to Tewksbury. "It's cheap, you can not taste it and it does not clump up, so it leads to better end products," she explains. You may find that it is listed on the ingredient labels as inulin, chicory root extract, chicory root, chicory root fiber, oligofructose, or other names (FDA 19459039) may include the number of grams of fiber listed, naturally occurring fibers, and any of these specially added fibers. For example, if a cereal bar contains 2 grams of naturally occurring oat fiber and 1 gram of fiber seed flax added to the label, the label simply displays 3 grams of fiber

At the cellular level, added fibers look quite similar to the intrinsic fibers, so our body largely does processed the same way – or rather not processed – says Tewksbury. Regardless of whether they naturally occur in or are added to a food, our small intestines can not break down fibers, so they are passed on to the colon, according to the FDA, where some soluble fiber is broken down by bacteria .

The real differences become visible when we zoom out a bit and look at the overall composition of many fiber-enriched foods. Typically, these are foods that not many other nutritional professionals have, says Tewksbury. So if you eat them instead of you will miss other foods (like fruits and whole grains) containing important vitamins and nutrients.

That does not make the addition of fiber naturally pointless. If you still have a tasty treat and choose one that tastes exactly the same and contains extra fiber, you'll get a two-for-one deal. And with certainty: "If your diet does not contain enough fiber, you can reach the goal with fiber in the form of functional fiber." Donald Ford MD, an internist at the Cleveland Clinic, explains SELF.

This also brings us to the tricky business of recognizing the long-term effects of dietary fiber on health. Many, if not most, studies in the FDA review (Grand Beach Reading Material if you're interested) are relatively small and short-term double-blind studies in which an added fiber supplement or food is compared to this supplement Fiber with a placebo or a control group. A number of studies have shown that these fibers actually contribute to improving health outcomes.

But when it comes to the impact on public health over time, foods that are packed with naturally occurring fibers generally have only a longer life-cycle track record, Tewksbury explains. For decades, we have looked at the relationships between dietary fiber intake and state of health in large populations, and have compiled a wealth of observations . The fundamental link that this research has made is between good health and intrinsic fiber, d. H. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans – not fiber. The plant foods that naturally contain fiber are generally exceptionally healthy. Therefore, it is difficult to find out exactly what benefits can be tailored to the fiber (as opposed to the example of protein in whole grains or to the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables) vegetables).

"Where we get this fiber recommendation is not just about the fiber itself, it's based on eating fruits and vegetables and whole grains," Tewksbury explains. For this reason, the Nutritional Guidelines explicitly states that low intake of fiber is due to low intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and it is recommended that more be eaten to increase fiber intake – no more cookies and bars with added fiber. In addition, herbal foods almost always contain a mixture of both types of fiber, while added fiber products usually contain only one (usually soluble) fiber, notes Dr. Ford. That's not necessarily bad, but it does mean that you will not get the benefits of either type, especially the benefits to digestive health that seem to be most associated with insoluble fiber.

Another nasty truth about added fiber

If you've found that eating fiber-enriched cereals or cookies makes you extra fat and bloated. You are not alone. This is another potential problem with added fibers: the large amount of fibers that contain some of these products. The charging of fibers of any kind, which occur naturally or are added, can, according to Dr. med. Ford may cause gas, flatulence and cramping, especially if you are eating more quickly or are not drinking enough water, as in the Mayo Clinic . Although fiber may be technically exaggerated by crushing oats and apples, the dietary fiber concentration in foods in which it is naturally contained is generally lower – while some of these added fiber snacks contain 10, 15 or more grams per serving. This makes it easy to overwhelm your GI system in just three or four bites. And if you grab a second (or third) brownie or cookie, that's just … a lot of fiber. That is why you may find that after eating a high-fiber bar, but not a bowl of oatmeal, you are particularly greasy or bloated. (If you find that high-fiber foods are upsetting your stomach, you may want to try a little less fiber, introduce it more slowly into your diet, and drink more water with it, Dr. Ford says.)

The good news is That stomach trouble is probably the worst thing that will happen to you (unless you have a GI condition and have been told to avoid excessive fiber). It's pretty much impossible to overdose on fiber, says dr. Ford, as they are not absorbed into your bloodstream. In fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), there is no "tolerable upper limit" for fiber, which means that the research did not reveal any dietary fiber that has been shown to have a significant negative health effect on mineral content or the function of the GI.

The conclusion of added fiber

It's so damn cool that we get a fiber boost from something that tastes like dessert, but you probably should not rely on fiber. fortified processed foods for most of your daily intake. If you want to add a little more fiber to your diet – to relieve constipation, or simply increase your overall intake – and are more interested in the fiber-enriched version, then opt for it. There is nothing wrong with using these foods to supplement your fiber intake (or just because you like them). "They're great as a treat or dessert with added nutritional value," says Tewksbury.

Keep in mind that these foods are just as tasty and welcome if you want to eat more fiber to improve the overall nutritional quality of your diet. It's best to rely on whole foods to get there, Dr. Ford. In other words, do not assume that high-fiber food is always the healthier option – and you probably do not swap out all the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans for added fiber brownies.

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