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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Getting More of the Good Stuff: Dietary Fiber

By Julia Bird

One nutrient that people around the world fail to get enough of is dietary fiber. Surveys conducted in the United States, various countries in Europe and Australia show that the average adult does not consume enough dietary fiber. Adequate fiber intake is associated not only with good intestinal health, but also lowered risk of cardiovascular risk factors, cancer and obesity. There are many foods that contain dietary fiber: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and pulses. Many cereal products that are traditionally low in fiber can now be obtained in higher-fiber versions. Therefore, making food choices that include a wide variety of different foods, especially those with reasonable amounts of fiber, should ensure adequate fiber intakes, which are generally around 25 to 30 grams per day for an adult.

In a study published recently, Reicks and co-workers investigated sources of dietary fiber in American adults’ diets. They used the comprehensive NHANES dataset with recent data from 2009-2010 to calculate average fiber intakes and how whole grains contribute. In the United States, people are advised to ensure that at least half of their consumption of grains should be whole grain, and one should assume that consuming only whole grains could be a goal to strive for. The authors report that only a small number of US adults and children meet the goal to make half their grains whole grain: around 40% of both adults and children reported consuming no whole grains, only 3% of children and 8% of adults reported consuming the recommendation.

As whole grains make a good contribution to fiber intakes, the authors also looked at the effect than increasing whole grain intakes had on total fiber. They found that there was a strong correlation between fiber intake and whole grain intake. As fiber intakes increased, there was an increasing likelihood that whole grains were being consumed.

Various foods made a contribution to fiber intakes. In children, foods contributing to more than 5% of total fiber intakes were bread, crackers, pancakes and waffles, cold breakfast cereals, oatmeal, mixed pre-prepared foods including frozen pizza and soups, dried beans, fruits and vegetables. The list was the same for adults, however pancakes and waffles did not make a significant contribution to fiber intakes.

From the article, it is clear where people get their fiber. For dietitians working directly with clients, the food industry, and public health professionals, there is information to help guide decisions made regarding interventions to help people meet dietary fiber recommendations, which appear to be being ignored by a significant percentage of the population.

Main citation:

Reicks M. Jonnalagadda S, Albertson AM, Joshi N. Total dietary fiber intakes in the US population are related to whole grain consumption: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009 to 2010. Corrected proof available online February 16, 2014.

Supporting citations:

McNaughton SA, Ball K, Crawford D, Mishra GD. An index of diet and eating patterns is a valid measure of diet quality in an Australian population. J Nutr. 2008 Jan;138(1):86-93.

Murphy N, Norat T, Ferrari P, Jenab M, Bueno-de-Mesquita B, Skeie G, Dahm CC, Overvad K, Olsen A, Tjønneland A, Clavel-Chapelon F, Boutron-Ruault MC, Racine A, Kaaks R, Teucher B, Boeing H, Bergmann MM, Trichopoulou A, Trichopoulos D, Lagiou P, Palli D, Pala V, Panico S, Tumino R, Vineis P, Siersema P, van Duijnhoven F, Peeters PH, Hjartaker A, Engeset D, González CA, Sánchez MJ, Dorronsoro M, Navarro C, Ardanaz E, Quirós JR, Sonestedt E, Ericson U, Nilsson L, Palmqvist R, Khaw KT, Wareham N, Key TJ, Crowe FL, Fedirko V, Wark PA, Chuang SC, Riboli E. Dietary fibre intake and risks of cancers of the colon and rectum in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC). PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39361. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039361. Epub 2012 Jun 22.