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Do We Really Need Fiber?

Do We Really Need Fiber?

When developing a product, especially a nutritional product, you first try to get a view of what you are trying to do from 20,000 feet and ask some questions to yourself. What do I need more of in my diet? What are other companies doing poorly that we can do better?  Why doesn’t this product have this, or why does it have so much of that? While this is one of the most exciting and rewarding times as part of a small company, it can lead to frustration.  Not only frustration about what you can and can’t do or put into your product due to technological or economic limitations (and there are tons) but frustration with people and the state of an average diet.  

One of the most important but neglected vitamins and minerals we consume every day is fiber. Fiber is found in most whole foods, especially in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that, unlike other carbohydrates, your body cannot digest.

As other carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber passes through the body undigested.

Unfortunately, due to the sad state of the standard American diet, most people do not get their daily recommended amount of fiber. Actually, more than most! Only 5% of Americans reach the daily recommended amount of fiber! Most Americans only get 15 grams of fiber each day, which is close to half of the daily recommended 30 grams of fiber.

The sad thing is, fiber is one of the few nutrients that have peer reviewed study after peer-reviewed study showing the effectiveness of fiber intake in treating several diseases, conditions, and health problems. 

To help you get familiar with fiber, there are 2 types.  Insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material.  This is the type of fiber you usually would see in supplements such as Metamucil or that Is found in whole food sources such as vegetables, legumes, and fruits like apples and oranges, and grapefruits.  Soluble Fiber is great as the gel-like substance that soluble fiber forms can stop your body from digesting or taking in certain fats and sugar that would be absorbed without the fiber.  

Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system so can help with many digestion problems.  Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and causes bulking to absorb water in your digestive tract to promote regularity. Insoluble fiber can be found in many whole foods some examples of some foods high insoluble fiber are but are not limited to whole-wheat bread, nuts, beans, and vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, and sweet potatoes.  

One of the many things fiber has been shown to fight is heart disease.  A Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals and researchers found that a high dietary fiber intake was linked to a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease.  A Harvard study of female nurses found similar results.  Diets high in fiber have also been shown to decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes.  One of the reasons this might be is soluble fibers' unique ability to slow and stop absorption leading to lower insulin peaks after meals and increasing the body's sensitivity to insulin.

Fiber can also help with Diverticulitis, an inflammation of the intestine, one of the most common age-related disorders of the colon in Western society. Among male health professionals in a long-term follow-up study, eating dietary fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, was associated with about a 40 percent lower risk of diverticular disease.   

Fiber is also necessary for a healthy gut biome! Fiber is the fuel that helps promote the growth of “good” gut bacteria that can positive effects on your health. The friendly bacteria produce nutrients for the body, including short-chain fatty acids like acetate, propionate, and butyrate, of which butyrate appears to be the most important. These short-chain fatty acids can feed the cells in the colon, leading to reduced gut inflammation and improvements in digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Two other benefits of fiber are increased immune support and weight management.  Some specific fermentable types of fibers have been shown to provide support for healthy immune function. Two mechanisms contribute to this benefit: increased levels of beneficial bacteria (i.e., Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus) and reduced adhesion of pathogens to the cell walls on your gut, which aids in flushing them from the digestive tract.  Also, recent research has shown that infant formula fortified with prebiotic oligosaccharides can help improve immune function. Being able to establish a healthy balance of microbiota early in life may contribute to long-term health outcomes because early colonizing microbiota has stronger adhesion and persistence within the intestinal tract than prebiotic bacteria consumed later in life. And an extra bonus is both types of fiber help contribute to weight management!  Meals high in Insoluble and soluble fiber both help you feel full quicker and longer than low fiber meals enabling you to eat less and feel full longer enabling you to quit snacking in between meals!

We also know fiber is especially important for children’s gut health!  It is a major key for regular bowel function and should help reduce and prevent constipation and irregularity and bloating, a major complaint about young children.  And fortunately for children, if they are eating the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables! Unfortunately for us, very few children are actually consuming the daily recommendations.  Not only does fiber have definitive benefits for general stomach health, but its filling properties also help make people feel fuller sooner, helping fight childhood obesity, one of the leading indicators for adult obesity, and a leading indicator of future adverse health outcomes.

After this research, we knew we would have to make sure that our new products were made with at least 25% of the daily value of fiber.  It is something that we knew we could add that could be an immediate health benefit to our consumers.  With Americans only eating about half the daily recommended amount of fiber, our 8 grams of fiber would in Meal2Grow have children reaching their daily fiber limit!

In general health outcomes the difference that this can make over a lifetime can be understated as being chronically low in fiber, as we have seen, can cause many issues later in life.