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Making Fiber More Digestible for Consumers
Author: Hannah Ackermann, Registered Dietitian & Corportate Communications Manager at Comet Bio
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 reports that most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diet.1 In fact, 95% of Americans are not consuming enough fiber.2 Over time, a shortfall of fiber can impact almost every aspect of our health, including the gut, heart, cognition, weight, and more. Fortunately, a new class of prebiotic fibers with better tolerability and functionality are coming to market, making it easier to meet the recommended daily fiber intake.
Modern diets lack fiber
The modern diet has a fiber deficiency problem partly due to Americans’ dependence on processed foods. During the harvesting of many crops, including grains, the most nutrient and fiber dense parts are often thrown out. Also, most Americans overconsume protein and primarily consume it from animal rather than plant sources.3 Whereas animal proteins contain no fiber, plant protein sources such as legumes and whole grains are fiber rich.
A lack of fiber in the diet dramatically impacts gut and overall health. Prebiotic fiber intake is essential as it fuels good bacteria growth, including probiotics in the microbiome. The gut microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. Having a healthy balance of good versus bad bacteria can help protect against pathogens, help the immune system, and support overall health through these basic functions. The science around the microbiome is still in its infancy, but there is a growing consensus that the microbiome plays a vital role in various diseases.
Linkage Research & Consulting Inc. reports that 87% of Americans understand that there is a connection between digestion and health, and 70% say they are proactive about their digestive health.4 Also, Mintel Market Research reports that four out 10 of consumers are willing to try food and drinks that will aid their digestive health.5
There are a clear consumer interest and demand for gut-healthy and fiber-rich products. So, why are Americans falling so short of the recommended daily intake?
One reason many individuals may avoid fiber-rich foods or supplements is due to digestion concerns. According to Mintel Market Research, one-third of consumers actively try to manage digestive problems, and one-fifth are dealing with it daily. In addition, about a quarter of Americans reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified their digestive health issues predominately due to increased stress.5 These GI issues make consumers more hesitant to try new products, which could exacerbate their symptoms.
Addressing prebiotic fiber’s potency and tolerability concerns
Prebiotic fibers offer a solution to help boost fiber intake and support overall digestive health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Unfortunately, many popular prebiotic fiber options require high inclusion levels to be effective. For example, 5 grams or more is needed of inulin, a commonly used prebiotic fiber sourced derived from chicory root. These higher inclusion rates render many prebiotic supplement, food, and beverage formats impractical. Many popular prebiotic fiber options, including inulin, are also oligosaccharides, a type of fiber that the popular low-FODMAP diet cautions individuals to avoid due to tolerability concerns.
Now, a new class of premium prebiotic fibers is coming to market with lower inclusion rates and better tolerability to address these concerns. These novel prebiotics are from different families of fibers including polysaccharides and resistant starches. These prebiotic fibers are tailored to offer functional benefits while being more versatile and easier to incorporate.
Upcycled prebiotic fibers raise the bar for digestibility
Many novel prebiotic fibers coming to market are produced from the nutrient-dense parts of crops commonly discarded during processing.
For example, Comet Bio’s Arrabina is an Arabinoxylan prebiotic fiber upcycled from wheat crop leftovers. Arabinoxylan is a hemicellulose polysaccharide fiber with clinically proven prebiotic and immunity benefits. The fiber’s longer chain polysaccharide structure makes it better tolerated by the gut compared to oligosaccharides. Results from Comet Bio’s recent clinical trial reveal that consumers can take up to 12 grams per day of Arrabina with no negative gut or bowel reaction.6 Arabinoxylan also boasts superior potency with effective inclusion levels as low as 3 grams.
Despite its exceptional prebiotic and health benefits, Arabinoxylan has not previously been widely available for use due to inefficient extraction technology. Comet Bio saw this market need and determined its patented upcycling technology would be the answer. The proprietary technology uses water and pressure to produce Arabinoxylan as a fully-soluble powder with superior food and beverage functionality.
Solnul is another upcycled prebiotic fiber to enter the market recently. The low-dose resistant starch is reclaimed from aqueous leftovers produced during potato manufacturing. Clinical research supports that the unique size and shape of the Solnul granule makes it better tolerated by the gut.7
Prebiotics take center stage
According to Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) data, the US digestive health market has nearly tripled in size within the last decade and is predicted to reach $5.7 billion by 2024. Prebiotic sales currently make up a small portion of the overall digestive health market size but are showing strong growth, having doubled every year since 2016 and surpassing $425 million in sales in 2020.8 In addition, awareness of prebiotics has grown to 81%, with 35% of supplement users taking prebiotics at some level, according to Ingredient Transparency Center (ITC) Insights’ 2020 Consumer Survey.9
Novel prebiotic fiber options with lower inclusion levels and superior tolerability will make it easier for food and beverage manufacturers to meet this growing consumer demand. Expect to see novel prebiotic fiber incorporated into a wider variety of formats in coming years, including coffee, tea, chocolate, and baked goods. By incorporating prebiotic fiber into existing products already a part of daily routines, consumers can more easily meet their gut health needs and the recommended daily fiber intake.
- “Digestive Health: Incl Impact of COVID-19 US.” Mintel. Aug 2020