Everyone knows they should eat more fibre – though hardly anyone does. Fibre fortification would make the UK population healthier, writes Dr Kavita Karnik (originally published at FMCG CEO Magazine).
Consumers have known for decades that they should eat more fibre – yet just nine percent of adults living in the UK currently consume the recommended daily amount, eating only 19g of fibre on average per day, instead of the recommended 30g.
Busy lifestyles, widespread lack of knowledge about how to read and understand food labelling, and a reluctance to ‘take the medicine’ by consuming brown and ‘boring’ foods all contribute to the gap between fibre intake and dietary recommendation.
While many have already swapped white bread for brown and have upped consumption of other high fibre foods, like wholemeal pasta, beans, nuts, lentils and veg, it’s actually really challenging for most people eating a typical western diet to meet their fibre needs without consuming excess calories. Consumers are much more likely to eat foods fortified with fibre when they enjoy the taste, helping to boost their fibre intake and overall health. This is where the fortification of the everyday foods which people like to eat with fibre has an important part to play in improving public health.
In January, our health and nutrition data modelling study was peer reviewed and published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The study aimed to evaluate the impact of fibre fortification of everyday foods on consumer health. It showed that fortifying the foods that consumers want to eat – from soups and sauces, breads and baked goods, to cereal bars and yoghurts – could transform levels of fibre consumption in the UK, enabling 50 percent more adults, and double the number of children, to get the right amount of fibre in their diets – fuelling a significant population-level health boost.
The study also showed that 6 percent of the population could lose weight through higher fibre consumption. Importantly, fibre fortification could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes for more than 70 percent of the adult UK population. Cardiovascular disease alone is responsible for a quarter of deaths annually in England, and costs the NHS £7bn per year, demonstrating the importance of fibre intake to public health.
Our research clearly demonstrates that fortifying foods with fibre without compromising on taste and texture is an essential tool for improving the health and wellbeing of the UK public. In fact, we are seeing many of our customers choosing to amend their recipes to include added fibre. This isn’t just for the obvious health benefits, there are practical reasons too. For example, fibre can be easily blended into food and drink, improving mouthfeel, helping to reduce sugar and caloric content, and making it possible for hard-to-reach groups like the elderly and the children, to increase their fibre intake.
Food fortification has been normalised since the 1940’s. With the advancement in reformulation science, many more everyday foods can be fortified as a matter of course, an effective way to improve the health of the population.
As a purpose-driven business supporting healthy living across the globe, we believe we have a role to play in providing solutions which improve people’s health and wellbeing. That’s why we want to share our expertise with consumers and give them information they need to make positive changes. For example, our newly launched Gut Health Hub on our website shares “simple swaps” that we can all make to our diet.
This recent study was not a one off – we are continuing to invest in research and technology to explore the benefits of fibre reformulation.