Spotlight

Healthy through the correct dietary fibre

22 December 2017

Dietary fibre contributes to good health. This is why it is important to eat enough foods that are high in fibre. Most people know this, but did you know that different types of fibre have their own health benefits?

“Fibre is actually a very diverse group of compounds, for which we still need to figure out what effects the different types of fibre have. It’s just like vitamins, where one is good for your eyes, while another supports the production of blood cells.”

Jurriaan Mes, Wageningen University & Research

What is dietary fibre?

Dietary fibre (or just “fibre”) can be found in the cell walls of plants.  They are important substances for a healthy digestive system. Most of it is not digested in the small intestine, but further on, in the colon, or it leaves the body unchanged.  It hardly produces any energy, but has different role. Fibre keeps the mass in the colon smooth and ensures a good through-flow, which promotes regular bowel movement. Our food contains a mixture of different types of fibre.

Which foods contain fibre?

Important sources of fibre are: vegetables, legumes, fruit and wholegrain products.. Wholewheat flour, for instance, contains all of the grain, including the dietary fibre from the outer layer of the grain. White flour only contains the inner part of the grain. The same goes for rice. White rice is hulled, and the fibre-rich membrane is discarded. The Netherlands Nutrition Centre recommends ingesting 30 to 40 grams of fibre a day. In comparison: A slice of wholemeal bread contains 2.3 grams of fibre, a slice of white bread 0.9 grams.

Health benefits of dietary fibre

Having regular bowel movement is not the only effect the right amount of dietary fibre has. It also ensures that the waste intestinal bacteria produce, which could contain toxic substances, does not linger in the intestines too long. If it does, this increases the chances of intestinal problems. Epidemiological research has shown that there is a correlation between high fibre intake and a lower risk of intestinal cancer.

Video – Jurriaan Mes explains the health benefits of dietary fibre (subtitles optional):

Different types of fibre

With vitamins, one is good for your eyes, while another supports the production of blood cells. With fibre, something similar is going on. Not every type of fibre has the same effect. Fibre is a very diverse group of compounds, for which we still need to figure out which effects the different types of fibre have.

  • Research has shown that some types of fibre can lower cholesterol or help maintain a healthy level, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Other types of fibre help regulate healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Another type gives a feeling of fullness, which helps to reach or maintain a healthy weight.
  • There is also fibre that has beneficial effects for the gut bacteria and the substances (metabolites) they produce.
  • The research suggests there is fibre that supports the immune system (your defence system) and can, for instance, stop the common cold, or shorten its duration. Not surprising if you consider that an important part of your immune system resides in your gut.

These effects have been confirmed in clinical trials with people. This has resulted in various health claims in favour of fibre.

At Wageningen University & Research, we do research into the effects on health of the different types of fibre. Into how they support the immune system during treatment of tumours; into their effect on improving symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), also known as colon irritabile; and for instance in research into the bowel movements of healthy people. We hope to start with research into improving the fibre intake of people by advising and implementing best practice.

We have already shown that a permanent change in diet and lifestyle is major health boost for patients who receive treatment for cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, kidney disorders and several gastrointestinal disorders. Lifestyle changes can even make medication superfluous.

Read more

Do you have any questions or comments? Go into conversation below.

Leave a comment »


Jurriaan Mes

Jurriaan Mes

Jurriaan Mes is a molecular biologist, and is the expertise leader of the research group at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research that concerns itself with the quality of food and health benefits. He has been working on the health benefits of dietary fibre for over twelve years.

There are 5 comments.

  1. By: Eyup Yuksel · 31-12-2017 at 07:30

    Which kind of fiber is best fit to each major disorder or disease I would like to learn more on this new info. How can I receive in-depthy knowledge on this in terms of groups of fiber sources matching each problem? Will this study be extended to different health exercises activities to be coupled with fibre type through biochemical metabolic pathways, or at least physiological mechanisms? May we receive more info by buying relevant articles, or a textbook? Thank you. Regards, Eyup

  2. By: Indra D. Bhatt · 31-12-2017 at 07:32

    Very informative and well written article on fibre.

  3. By: Ad Verwoerd · 31-12-2017 at 09:25

    Gaarne in het Nederlands

  4. By: Robert Sabin · 31-12-2017 at 12:28

    Fiber contains Inositol Hexaphosphate, also known as phytate, phytic acid. There are many published studies with IP6 relating to ameliorating Cancer, Heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and more, alot more. IP6 is unavailable for the most part through other dietary components.
    A deficiency of IP6 may be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, two papers published, one Anekonda, the other by Abe…
    Could it b e the shift to processed grains removing IP6, which was consumed in unprocessed grains for 11,000+ yrs is a major player in AD…..

  5. By: Mabira Richard · 01-02-2018 at 09:17

    This is a very informative and educative information. It would be important that as many persons as possible get to know about it. Thanks

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *