Health Watch
by Deborah Dihel
EXTENDING BENEFITS OF DIGESTIVE HEALTH
In the 1970s, we witnessed some of the first television ads that associated dairy products such as yogurt with health, vitality and longevity.
In one ad, we witnessed a senior citizen as attributing a long life to daily servings of yogurt; in another, we witnessed the stamina of a mountain climber, thanks to the benefits of yogurt. These and other mass media ads that followed have helped to substantially educate the American consumer about the significant benefits that can be delivered from dairy products.
Now more than ever, Americans are open to consuming food products that can supply health benefits in a consumer-appealing format. By all accounts, the rising number of health-conscious Americans affords the dairy industry new opportunities to capitalize on products formulated for health benefits. Makers of yogurt, cottage cheese, milkshake formulas, puddings and other dairy products may now want to consider the options available for enriching products with ingredients demonstrated to play a beneficial role in the area of digestive health.
Soluble fiber is one such ingredient. Clinical studies have shown that consuming dextrin-based soluble fiber will increase beneficial saccharolytic flora in the digestive system and at the same time decrease potentially harmful Clostridium perfringens. This research finding allows dairy food product formulators to consider a digestion benefit claim in finished products. Beyond the production of “friendly flora,” dextrin-based fiber is also known to increase beneficial bacteria lactobacilli.
Perhaps the most important benefit associated with dextrin-based soluble fiber can be found in the large intestine, where it induces the production of short-chain fatty acids, a known biomarker for colonic health. Because dextrin-based soluble fiber ferments relatively slowly, short-chain fatty acids can be released into the gut and absorbed as energy over a sustained period of time. All of these benefits combined make a compelling case for the enrichment of dairy products with select forms of fiber ingredients.
Dairy formulators, fully aware of the digestive tolerance issues experienced by some populations, will want to take great care in selecting soluble fiber products for dairy applications. Formulators attuned to the digestive-tolerance limitations of some commonly used vegetable-based or sucrose-derived fibers may want to consider a more digestive-tolerant form of soluble fiber.
National Starch Food Innovation offers Nutriose®, a corn-derived resistant dextrin made by Roquette Frères, to many food and beverage segments in the United States and Mexico. Consumer tests show that Nutriose, which contains 85 percent total dietary fiber, allows a very high dose tolerance, as much as 45 grams per day, without risk of gastrointestinal discomfort. Because consumer research indicates that people prefer to obtain their nutrients and improve their health through the foods they regularly eat, formulators who elect to enrich dairy products with digestive tolerant forms of fiber may be in a better position to meet the needs of all populations.
Resistant dextrins cater to consumer-desirable product attributes in addition to health claims. Nutriose, for example, supports improvements in the sensory attributes of reduced sugar and reduced-fat dairy products. Some product makers may elect to use a dextrin form of soluble fiber for health-benefit claims as well as for clean flavor attributes, smooth texture and desirable mouthfeel.
Nutriose, a clear, low-viscosity, highly soluble and dispersible fiber, is acid resistant and tolerates heat, pasteurization and whipping, providing the basis for virtually universal application across a wide spectrum of dairy foods.  
Deborah Dihel is business development manager for soluble fiber at National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J.