Why people need fibre at every age


At Tate & Lyle, we partner with international research organisations, academia and others in industry to build the evidence base around the role fibres play in our diets. While it’s true to say that everyone needs more fibre, emerging research is showing that we also need a variety of fibres to have a healthy gut environment as different fibres have different effects, relevant at different stages in life.

During and after pregnancy, women need to increase fibre intake

This is a time where not getting your recommended daily allowance of fibre can take its toll due to constipation, which is common in late pregnancy, and bone calcium depletion during breast feeding. Adding fibre to foods containing calcium can increase a person’s ability to absorb and retain calcium, supporting bone health. 

Babies and young children are establishing their gut environment 

Smiling son and father with grandparents in the background

Babies that are born by caesarean will have a different gut environment than those born vaginally. Whether a baby consumes breast milk or baby formula also has an impact. That’s why two fibres commonly known as GOS and FOS are often used in baby formula, to help establish a healthy gut environment from birth. For young children who can have phases of ‘fussy eating’ or who shun fibre-rich foods, fibre fortified food and beverages can be a good alternative source. 

Adolescence and post-menopause is a crucial life stage for bone health 

Teens experience rapid growth and so getting enough calcium into bones at this age is crucial to maximise the bone density and strength. Incidentally, due to hormonal changes, postmenopausal women are especially susceptible to osteoporosis and factures and hence maintaining bone health is important in that age group too. Increasing calcium absorption and retention is important, and our PROMITOR® Soluble Fibre has been shown in clinical trials to help with calcium retention. 

From their 40s, adults must pay greater attention to metabolic health 

Fibres can support blood glucose management and weight management, by making us feel fuller for longer. Fortifying with fibre helps to improve the nutritional density or carbohydrate nutritional profile of foods. They also have a lower caloric content than sugar, in addition to being a nutritious bulking alternative to sugar. Eating more fibre has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease as well as slower risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, which affect people of all ages. Our modelling research shows that adding fibre to popular foods and drinks, at the levels allowed by the regulation in the UK, could provide real health benefits such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular and Type-2 diabetes for 72% of the UK adult population. 

Fibre intakes often drop in older age

Reduced appetite, challenges chewing, and limited access to cooking facilities are some of the causes of older adults consuming far less fibre than they need. Microbiota diversity drops at this life stage so fibre's role in supporting the gut environment is vital. Medications can cause constipation, hence the need for fibre’s role in supporting regularity. Fibres also support immunity, and their potential role supporting brain health is an emerging field. We are just completing a large clinical study in this area and look forward to learning more about the impact of our fibres on cognition and the overall mechanism of the gut-brain axis. 

Watch our video to hear Dr Kavita Karnik, Tate & Lyle’s Global Head of Nutrition, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, in discussion with broadcaster Louise Minchin about the vital importance of closing the ‘fibre gap’ across age groups, as part of the British Nutrition Foundation’s ‘Nutrition for Life’ series.

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