Researchers Reaffirm Need for Increased Fiber in American Diet
By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, June 30, 2012, abstracted from “Filling America’s Fiber Intake Gap: Summary of a Roundtable to Probe Realistic Solutions with a Focus on Grain-Based Foods” in the July 1, 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition
A number of health benefits result from fiber intake, including healthy digestion, maintaining healthy levels of total and LDL cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels, and helping maintain a healthy weight by enhancing feelings of fullness (satiety) (1,2,3). In children, increased fiber intake has been found to improve diet quality and decrease their risk for becoming overweight or obese (4,5).
Despite these health benefits, less than 3% of Americans get enough fiber (6). With one in three Americans classified as obese, the medical costs of obesity totaled $147 billion in 2008, with obese patients costing $1,429 more per person than those of normal weight (7). Now a new roundtable discussion (8) of nutrition experts from around the country:
· Roger Clemens - Department of Pharmacy, University of Southern California
· Sibylle Kranz - Department of Nutrition Science, Purdue University
· Amy R. Mobley - Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Connecticut
· Theresa A. Nicklas - Baylor College of Medicine, USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center
· Mary Pat Raimondi - Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
· Judith C. Rodriguez - Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL;
· Joanne L. Slavin - Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota
has put a more intense focus on the need to increase fiber intake among Americans.
In their discussions entitled “Filling America’s Fiber Gap: Probing Realistic Solutions”, the researchers agreed that fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are the foods that can best help Americans meet the Institute of Medicine’s fiber recommendations of 19-38 grams per day (9). The U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services’ recommendation of 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (10) would satisfy 63% of fiber needs, with one serving of fruit (1/2 cup) providing 1.1 grams of fiber and one serving (1/2 cup) of dark green vegetables providing 2.1 grams of fiber (11).
The researchers stated that whole grains offer the most help in meeting the recommended fiber intake. Whole grains have more fiber per serving than fruits and vegetables (2.5-4.9 grams per 1-ounce serving), although 99% of Americans do not meet the requirements for whole grain intake (12).
The researchers also looked at obstacles that prevent Americans from getting enough fiber. Perhaps the #1 barrier was how foods are labeled and whether they are really “good” sources of fiber (more than 1 gram of fiber per serving for fruits and vegetables and more than 3 grams of fiber per serving for grain-based foods). The average American gets 13.8 grams of fiber per day that come primarily from 25 different food items that include vegetables, sandwiches, fruit, ready-to-eat cereals, and potatoes (13). Unfortunately, although many of these 25 foods may have enough fiber, they also contain much higher levels of calories due to other additives and sugar. As a result, foods labeled a “good” source of fiber may also contain excessive amounts of calories.
Another obstacle has been the emergence of low carb diets, which prevent adequate fiber intake. This can be especially problematic in weight loss, as it is believed that at least 24 grams of fiber per day are needed to help with proper weight loss (14).
For the researchers, “There was consensus among roundtable participants that grain foods offer a unique opportunity to help Americans increase their fiber intakes” and that “making simple changes to choose grain foods with a good or excellent source of fiber may be the most realistic…way to help Americans make immediate progress toward filling the fiber intake gap while staying within energy needs.”
Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Hauppauge, NY. You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.PitchingDoc.com
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