Submitted to: New York Academy of Sciences
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/23/1997
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: The possible benefits as well as potential problems from consumption of large quantities of soluble-fibers used in foods are reviewed. The wide array of low-fat/high fiber foods have the potential for helping in weight loss or weight control. Individuals with elevated plasma cholesterol concentrations have been shown to have a greater risk for coronary heart disease and elevated blood glucose levels are found in diabetics. Consumption of soluble fibers in sufficient quantities has been shown to lower serum lipid concentrations and improving glycemic response. Increased fiber intake has been recommended for the U.S. population to improve bowel function. Changes in dietary fiber and starch source increase the amount of fermentable material reaching the colon. Short- chain fatty acids thus produced are utilized as an energy source by colonocytes and may help reduce cholesterol production. However, colonic fermentation can also result in flatulence or diarrhea. In addition, some diets high in soluble fiber have been shown to change intestinal cell morphology in rats. Research is still needed utilizing foods containing soluble-fibers fat substitutes in a controlled diet fed to humans. Scientists studying cardiovascular disease, diabetes or obesity, as well as the industries who develop the low-fat/high-fiber foods, will benefit from this review.
Technical Abstract: Dietary fiber is an integral component of plant material used as foods; for example, cellulose is found in all cell walls, oats and barley are good sources of beta-glucans, and citrus and green apples are good sources of pectin. Modified starches (such as dextrins or maltodextrins from potato, tapioca, corn, and wheat), soluble gums (such as guar, xanthan, and locust bean gums; algins; pectins; and beta-glucans), and modified cellulose have been used as fat substitutes to reduce caloric density. Modified starches and gums are used in fabricated reduced-fat foods to provide the functional properties of fat being a stabilizer, an emulsifier, a bulking agent, a texturizer, and a humectant. High-fiber diets and reduced-calorie foods have been used by the public and in research for weight reduction. High- fiber intake has been linked with decreased risk for some chronic disorders, such as cardiovascular disease and large bowel cancer. Dietary fiber has been associated with improving bowel function and transit time but may alter mineral absorption. Soluble dietary fiber lowers cholesterol and glycemic response and can be fermented by colonic bacteria, which may result in flatulence, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. However, people differ greatly in their tolerance to high fiber consumption.