Ah, January — the traditional time to begin anew. Many folks do so by starting yet another weight loss diet. Rather than leading to lasting weight loss, however, diets almost always lead to disappointment. Nearly 95% of dieters regain the lost weight and about one-third regain more weight than they lost. What’s more, repeated weight loss and regain may increase blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation, and depress metabolism and immune function.  

Provide, don’t deprive

The key to overall health, including maintaining a healthy weight, is a healthy lifestyle — and adequate nourishment plays a major part. In addition to promoting overall health, adequate amounts of certain nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D and fiber, may help foster a healthy weight. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get enough of these nutrients. Consumption of fiber, for instance, is typically 15 grams per day, about half of what’s recommended.

According to a review of fiber’s human health benefits (Slavin, Nutrients 2013), fiber has a positive effect on gut health and higher intakes of fiber are linked to less cardiovascular disease and lower body weights. A review of more than 50 intervention studies (Howarth, et al. Nutr. Rev. 2001) estimated that increasing fiber intake by 14 grams per day was associated with a 10% decrease in energy intake and a 2 kilogram (4.4 pound) weight loss over approximately four months. This result was seen with intrinsic fiber (present in the food matrix) and added/functional fibers.

 Because all fibers are different and have a variety of effects, experts recommend consuming fiber from a variety of sources, including added/functional fibers.

How fiber functions

The proposed mechanism for fiber’s impact on body weight is related to decreased/delayed feelings of hunger and increased feelings of fullness, which may result in reduced energy intake and body weight. Effects on hunger and fullness may be due to the ability of certain fibers to displace energy in the diet, slow energy and nutrient absorption, slow gastric emptying, and alter fat oxidation and fat storage.

Although the research suggesting an inverse relationship between fiber intake and body weight is promising, experts agree that more research is needed. In the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position paper entitled Health Implications of Dietary Fiber (2008), the Academy assigned a grade of 3 (limited evidence) to dietary fiber’s benefit in obesity, stating, “Based on current data, dietary fiber intake from whole foods or supplements may have some benefit in terms of weight loss and other health outcomes. Benefits may occur with intakes of 20 to 27 grams/day from whole foods or up to 20 grams fiber per day from supplements.”

Processors are incorporating a variety of functional fibers in dairy/dairy-based foods and beverages to improve products’ nutrition profile and/or functionality. Functional fibers that may help foster a healthy weight include wheat dextrin, polydextrose, resistant starch and fructo-oligosaccharides.

I asked ingredient suppliers about fiber ingredients and weight management. Here’s what they had to say:

Neelash Varde, PhD, Roquette America Inc., Geneva, Ill., said “In our studies, it was found that 8 grams of wheat dextrin per day induces a statistically significant effect on satiety.”

Varde, who is senior product manager for Fibers and Proteins, said that “When the dosage was increased to 14 grams per day, the data showed a statistically significant effect on weight management. At a peak consumption of 24 grams of wheat dextrin per day, test subjects had more than a 300-calorie deficit compared to the control group, and as a result, lost more than two pounds at the end of the nine-week study.”

Roquette’s wheat dextrin is non-GMO, acid stable, completely soluble and is said to have no impact on taste. It can be used in frozen desserts, yogurts, dairy smoothies, creamers and cheeses.

According to Ramon Espinoza, product specialist, Active Nutrition, at DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, Kan., polydextrose contributes to satiety and may help with weight control. The company’s polydextrose ingredient can help in formulating low-calorie, reduced-sugar and low-fat foods and beverages. It also lowers glycemic response in foods and contributes to satiety while adding fiber. The soluble fiber can be added to virtually any food or beverage including ice cream, yogurt and dairy beverages.

Fiber is one possible, and very promising, factor in fostering a healthy weight. The bottom line for fiber, per the state of the science, is that most Americans aren’t getting enough for optimal overall health.

More is better

 In the New Year, tidings of good cheer should include messages about providing rather than depriving, and including rather than excluding. Nourishing oneself and one’s family and friends with nutrient-rich foods and plenty of fiber from a variety of sources is a great place to start.