Most consumers know that they need to eat more fiber, but only 5% of U.S. citizens meet adequate intake levels. A new position paper, “Health Implications of Dietary Fiber,” published in November 2015 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, provides important insights on this topic. Manufacturers of yogurt and functional dairy beverages can use this update to fine-tune their product development and marketing efforts.

The paper explains the various types of fibers. “Dietary fibers” have been defined by the Institute of Medicine as “nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants.” In contrast, the organization defines “functional fibers” as “isolated nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans.” Adding both kinds gives dairy products a health boost.

Fiber contributes to wellness

Consumption of higher levels of dietary fiber has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It may also aid in weight reduction.

“One in three Americans has pre-diabetes, and they often don’t even know they have it. Consuming fiber helps individuals to feel full and promotes weight management, which is closely tied with diabetes control,” explained Registered Dietitian Jessica Crandall, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Denver.

Adequate Intake of dietary fiber is 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams for adult men. However, the mean intake is only 17 grams a day.

“To achieve recommended intakes, consumers should strive to get 3 to 5 grams of fiber per snack, and 7 to 10 grams per meal. We recognize that Americans are deficient not only in fiber, but also in dairy, so combining fiber and dairy is beneficial for Americans to meet their nutrient needs,” said Crandall.

Approaches by Yoplait, Chobani

The addition of fiber to yogurt via whole grains was a key trend in 2015. Yoplait’s new Plenti line includes eight flavors with added whole-grain oats, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. The Plenti line utilizes whole grains and seeds to achieve a fiber content of 1 gram (or 4% of the Daily Value.) Chobani expanded its Greek Yogurt Oats family by adding new flavors, including an Ancient Grain Blend. The Chobani line includes oat fiber which boosts the dietary fiber content to 3 grams (12% DV). Chobani touts both “10 grams of whole grain” and “a good source of fiber” in the product’s promotion.

Fibers have a unique mix of inherent health benefits and functionality, making them utility players for marketing “better for you” products.

“In addition to contributing to grams of fiber on the Nutrition Facts panel, some fiber ingredients can provide functionality to help meet consumer demand for other health and wellness trends, like sugar and calorie reduction,” said Applications Food Scientist Ted Schevey of Tate & Lyle, Hoffman Estates, Ill. “For example, 55% of consumers are looking for sugar reduction according to a 2015 IFIC study. This trend leads many manufacturers to replace sugar with high-potency sweeteners. When making this shift, fibers provide bulk and help maintain the sensory experience of the full-sugar product.”

Sweetened dairy beverages, smoothie-type dairy products and protein-fortified dairy beverages are all great candidates for fiber fortification. A fiber ingredient from ADM/Matsutani LLC provides a concentrated dose of soluble corn fiber to formulations and leaves consumers “really satisfied,” said Doris Dougherty, a Fibersol Technical Service Representative. She pointed out a recent satiety study that found that when 10 grams of the ingredient are consumed with a meal, certain satiety hormones are stimulated and hunger is delayed.

Fiber and prebiotics

Almost all prebiotics are fiber, but not all fiber is prebiotic.

“Put simply, prebiotic fibers promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. Inulin and soluble corn fiber are both prebiotic fibers. One important consideration when choosing between these two prebiotic fibers is digestive tolerance,” said Schevey.

Fiber definitions have evolved over time. Dairy producers should remember to select the proper AOAC method so that they can accurately reflect and promote the fiber content of their products.