What Do We Really Know About Fibers?
Whole foods naturally rich in fiber offer many health benefits; however, the typical western diet seriously lacks in such fibers, leading to constipation issues, obesity, and an imbalance in the gut’s microbiome. Hence the idea of the food industry to enrich processed foods with refined, water-soluble, fermentable fibers, such as inulin, and market those as health-promoting.
However, there is a new study that reverses almost everything nutritionists have said for the past several years about fibers. According to recent research conducted jointly by Georgia State University and the University of Toledo1, there is a big difference between natural fibers contained in whole foods, and processed fibers added to certain foods. In their laboratories, mice fed with a steady diet of food enriched with refined inulin developed jaundice, and after six months, many developed liver cancer.
“These findings indicate that enriching foods with purified fibers may not recapitulate the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables naturally rich in soluble fiber,” said Andrew Gewirtz, PhD, professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State and one of the study’s authors. Gewirtz continued to say, “it may result in serious, life-threatening liver cancer in some individuals, hence, we think the recent FDA rule change that has effectively encouraged marketing of fiber-fortified food as health-promoting is ill-conceived and should be reconsidered2.”
More research is needed to investigate why purified fibers may not recapitulate benefits similar to the soluble fiber naturally contained in fruits and vegetables. Could the chemical process the chicory root is subjected to, in order to extract inulin, be responsible for the difference? While we are waiting for answers, and maybe a second generation of inulin, there is thankfully good old mother nature we can always turn to for dependable solutions that are gentle on your body. Some other products, such as ColonetTM, containing walnuts3 and whole food extracts seem to be better suited to help dealing with occasional constipation, without the addition of inulin or harsh laxatives.
Along with natural, organic, whole foods, we all need to protect our bodies from the processed foods consumed daily in modern diets. If supplementation is needed, be sure it does not cause discomfort or laxative dependency.