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Unlocking the Health Benefits of Insoluble Fiber in Preventing Diabetes and Cancer?

A recent research from the University of Minnesota has shed light on an interesting fact – that ensuring an adequate intake of fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, is not only essential for promoting bowel regularity and gut health, but it may also contribute to many other health improvements.(1) 

The study has suggested that insoluble fiber found in plants contain many unique bioactive compounds that could potentially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. These findings emphasize the importance of incorporating these bioactives into various foods and supplements in order to have a significant impact on our health.

However, the issue is that despite the widely documented benefits of fruits, vegetables, and grains, a significant portion of the population is still falling short of meeting the daily dietary guidelines. The study highlighted the potential of extracting beneficial fiber and bioactives from food production byproducts, such as peel, pulp, or pomace, which are rich in fiber and bioactive compounds. 

This research study was recently published in Nutrients.(2)

Researching 30 Insoluble Dietary Fiber Sources

In their quest to explore the bioactive content of various foods, the research team from University of Minnesota conducted an extensive search across databases such as Ovid Medline, Ovid Agricola, and Scopus. Their investigation included 30 sources of insoluble dietary fiber (IDF), ranging from rice and wheat to lentils, mangoes, beets, and berries. The team employed criteria like total phenolic content (TPC), total flavonoid content (TFC), and antioxidant activity (AA) to evaluate the bioactive content of each food item.(3,4)

The study revealed a wide variety of 64 bioactive compounds, categorized into phenolic acids, flavonoids, and non-flavonoid compounds. The researchers highlighted the importance of considering different plant parts for maximum bioactive concentration, suggesting that including pulp for fruits or skin for vegetables could enhance these beneficial compounds. They further emphasized that their approach aimed to move beyond dietary fiber, delving into the realm of bioactives found in a diverse array of plant-based foods, although there is the fact that there is an uneven representation of information across various journals that needs to be acknowledged.(5)

Impact of Extraction Methods on the Bioactivity of Insoluble Dietary Fiber

The exploration of Insoluble Dietary Fiber (IDF) by the University of Minnesota team also revealed that there is an intricate distribution in specific plant foods and diverse plant tissues, emphasizing on the varying fiber types found in different plant tissues. The team underscored the crucial role of extraction, processing, and treatment in influencing both IDF and bioactive content.

The study looked into the impact of different extraction methods on carotenoid levels in sweet corncobs and Mexican apple pomace powders. Furthermore, they also observed significant differences in bioactivity influenced by processing temperatures. The researchers faced challenges in maintaining bioactivity, notably observing a 30% loss in phenolic content after boiling lentil-fortified pasta. This emphasizes the complex interplay between extraction methods and the preservation of bioactivity in IDF sources.

Despite the challenges in fully retaining Insoluble Dietary Fiber (IDF) compounds, numerous foods that were researched during the study exhibited enhanced nutritional value. The researchers highlighted a prevailing issue in many commercial ready-to-eat foods, emphasizing their limited nutritional content, particularly in baked goods. However, when incorporating plant sources into cookies, there was a notable increase in IDF, Total Phenolic Content (TPC), and Total Flavonoid Content (TFC), accompanied by a reduction in carbohydrate content. This underlines the potential for fortification, demonstrating an opportunity to enhance the nutritional profile of commonly consumed foods.

Some Points to Consider About Adding Fiber To Your Food

When it comes to adding enhanced bioactive content in foods, researchers are further looking into the potential of incorporating Insoluble Dietary Fiber (IDF) to foods. While this supplementation can indeed increase the nutritional value, it comes with many considerations.

The study identified that adding IDF might bring about textural changes in certain products, with some alterations actually proving to be advantageous. For example, the inclusion of apple pomace contributed to a firmer and more consistent yogurt product during the trial. However, the cooking process demonstrated a trade-off, leading to a reduction in the bioactivity of some foods, albeit still surpassing the control group. The findings suggest that IDF holds promise as a valuable supplement for consumers.

Experts have further emphasized potential benefits including improved digestive health, weight and blood sugar management, and cardiovascular health. Despite these advantages, one must not make the mistake of overlooking the complexities of isolating insoluble fiber, including potential challenges like cost, labor intensity, and the risk of changing its natural properties.

What Are Some Of The Other Benefits Of Insoluble Fiber?

Insoluble fiber offers a range of many other health benefits beyond its role in promoting bowel regularity and gut health. These include: 

  • Weight Management: Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the diet without providing additional calories. Foods high in insoluble fiber are often less energy-dense, helping individuals feel full and satisfied with fewer calories. This can contribute to weight management and the prevention of overeating.(6,7)
  • Digestive Health: Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, facilitating its movement through the digestive tract. This can help prevent constipation and promote regular bowel movements, contributing to overall digestive health.(8)
  • Blood Sugar Control: Some studies suggest that a diet rich in insoluble fiber may help regulate blood sugar levels. High-fiber foods, particularly whole grains, can slow the absorption of sugar, leading to better blood sugar control.(9)
  • Heart Health: Insoluble fiber has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. It can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, contributing to heart health. The fiber may achieve this by promoting the elimination of cholesterol through stool.(10)
  • Reduced Risk of Certain Cancers: Adequate fiber intake, including insoluble fiber, has been associated with a decreased risk of certain types of cancers, particularly colorectal cancer. The exact mechanisms are not fully understood, but it may involve the removal of potentially harmful substances from the digestive tract.(11)
  • Improved Gut Microbiota: Insoluble fiber serves as a prebiotic, promoting the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. A healthy gut microbiota is associated with various aspects of well-being, including immune function and mental health.(12)
  • Appetite Regulation: Insoluble fiber has the potential to regulate appetite by promoting a feeling of fullness. Foods rich in insoluble fiber often require more chewing and take longer to eat, allowing the body’s satiety signals to kick in. This can be beneficial for weight management by reducing overall food intake.(13)
  • Constipation Prevention: Insoluble fiber plays a crucial role in preventing and alleviating constipation. It adds bulk to the stool, softening it and facilitating its movement through the digestive tract. This can help individuals maintain regular bowel movements and prevent the discomfort associated with constipation.(14)
  • Dental Health: Chewing foods high in insoluble fiber, such as raw vegetables and fruits, promotes saliva production. Saliva contains natural enzymes that aid in breaking down food particles and neutralizing acids in the mouth. This process contributes to better oral health by reducing the risk of cavities and gum disease.

It is, however, important to note that while insoluble fiber offers numerous health benefits, a balanced diet that includes a variety of fibers, including soluble fiber from sources like fruits, vegetables, and legumes, is optimal for overall health.

How To Add More Insoluble Fiber To Your Diet?

Incorporating more insoluble fiber into your diet is a beneficial step toward promoting gut health and overall well-being. Here are some practical ways to increase your intake of insoluble fiber: 

  1. Whole Grains: Choose whole grains over refined grains. Opt for whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, and oats to increase your insoluble fiber intake.(15)
  2. Vegetables: Eat a variety of vegetables, including those with skins and seeds. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and dark leafy greens are excellent sources of insoluble fiber.
  3. Fruits: Consume fruits with skins and seeds to maximize insoluble fiber content. Apples, pears, berries, and grapes are great choices.(16)
  4. Legumes: Include legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans in your meals. These provide a rich source of insoluble fiber.(17)
  5. Nuts and Seeds: Snack on nuts and seeds, such as almonds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds, to add more insoluble fiber to your diet.
  6. Bran: Incorporate bran into your diet through bran cereals, bran muffins, or whole-grain bran flakes.
  7. Popcorn: Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain snack that contains insoluble fiber. Avoid excessive butter and salt for a healthier option.
  8. Hydration: Drink plenty of water. Insoluble fiber absorbs water, contributing to softer stools and improved bowel regularity.
  9. Diversify your Plate: Aim for a diverse and colorful plate with a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to ensure a broad spectrum of nutrients, including insoluble fiber.
  10. Make Gradual Changes: Introduce these dietary changes gradually to allow your digestive system to adjust. Sudden increases in fiber intake may cause temporary digestive discomfort.

By incorporating these fiber-rich foods into your daily meals, you can enhance your intake of insoluble fiber, promoting digestive health and supporting your overall health.

Conclusion

The research conducted by the University of Minnesota sheds light on the potential benefits of insoluble dietary fiber (IDF) and its role in enhancing the nutritional value of plant-based foods. The research team emphasized that this study marks a significant shift, thus challenging past notions that only soluble dietary fiber holds significant physiological benefits. The findings underscore the importance of dietary guidance advocating increased consumption of plant foods to meet recommended levels of total dietary fiber. This insight not only contributes to a broader understanding of IDF, but also encourages both the food and health industries and consumers to recognize its diverse bioactive properties. As the scientific community continues to uncover the many advantages of plant-based nutrition, incorporating a variety of fiber-rich foods becomes necessary for our overall health and well-being.

References:

  1. fscn.cfans.umn.edu. (n.d.). Department of Food Science and Nutrition | Food Science and Nutrition. [online] Available at: https://fscn.cfans.umn.edu/ [Accessed 13 Nov. 2023].
  2. Timm, M., Offringa, L.C., Van Klinken, B.J.W. and Slavin, J., 2023. Beyond Insoluble Dietary Fiber: Bioactive Compounds in Plant Foods. Nutrients, 15(19), p.4138.
  3. Kris-Etherton, P.M., Hecker, K.D., Bonanome, A., Coval, S.M., Binkoski, A.E., Hilpert, K.F., Griel, A.E. and Etherton, T.D., 2002. Bioactive compounds in foods: their role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The American journal of medicine, 113(9), pp.71-88.
  4. Denny, A. and Buttriss, J., 2007. Plant foods and health: focus on plant bioactives. Synthesis report, 4, pp.1-64.
  5. Bernhoft, A.J.A.B., 2010. A brief review on bioactive compounds in plants. Bioactive compounds in plants-benefits and risks for man and animals, 50, pp.11-17.
  6. Slavin, J.L., 2005. Dietary fiber and body weight. Nutrition, 21(3), pp.411-418.
  7. Guess, N.D., Dornhorst, A., Oliver, N., Bell, J.D., Thomas, E.L. and Frost, G.S., 2015. A randomized controlled trial: the effect of inulin on weight management and ectopic fat in subjects with prediabetes. Nutrition & metabolism, 12(1), pp.1-10.
  8. Wiss, D., 2021. Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber for Gut Health. Gut.
  9. Samra, R.A. and Anderson, G.H., 2007. Insoluble cereal fiber reduces appetite and short-term food intake and glycemic response to food consumed 75 min later by healthy men. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 86(4), pp.972-979.
  10. Erkkilä, A.T. and Lichtenstein, A.H., 2006. Fiber and cardiovascular disease risk: how strong is the evidence?. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 21(1), pp.3-8.
  11. Negri, E., Franceschi, S., Parpinel, M. and La Vecchia, C., 1998. Fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention: a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 7(8), pp.667-671.
  12. Senés-Guerrero, C., Gradilla-Hernández, M.S., García-Gamboa, R. and García-Cayuela, T., 2020. Dietary fiber and gut microbiota. Science and technology of fibers in food systems, pp.277-298.
  13. Akhlaghi, M., 2022. The role of dietary fibers in regulating appetite, an overview of mechanisms and weight consequences. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, pp.1-12.
  14. Yang, J., Wang, H.P., Zhou, L. and Xu, C.F., 2012. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG, 18(48), p.7378.
  15. Slavin, J., 2010. Whole grains and digestive health. Cereal Chemistry, 87(4), pp.292-296.
  16. Marlett, J.A. and Vollendorf, N.W., 1994. Dietary fiber content and composition of different forms of fruits. Food Chemistry, 51(1), pp.39-44.
  17. Khan, A.R., Alam, S., Ali, S., Bibi, S. and Khalil, I.A., 2007. Dietary fiber profile of food legumes. Sarhad Journal of Agriculture, 23(3), p.763.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 27, 2023

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