11 March 2009


Calling BS on new "high fibre" foods

Noticed how many more prepared food products (yogurt, cookies, ice cream, etc.) are advertising fibre content in the past year or so? Have food makers smartened up and started putting whole grains in a whole bunch of foods? As you would expect, no. The companies are simply able to put artificial fibre additives into a wider variety of foods than they used to. However:

The problem with this is that nobody knows if these fiber additives possess the same health benefits as natural fiber found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So that new high-fibre yogurt that doesn't taste high-fibre—well, it may not be any better for you than the old stuff, and is very likely not as good for you as real whole-grain food. No shock: these new fibre-enriched foods are more marketing than nutrition.

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i've been wondering about those too cuz fiber changes the texture and stuff...

and also when i read the ingredients i don't see anything which is fiber-like. those fiber-one bars and line of foods is VERY popular among dieters. but they're so full of sugar and other bad/chemically processed goods.
I've seen similar with the eggs that have Omega 3 in them and unless the chickens have been diddlin' with fish secretly, it seems slightly peculiar. Anything that is being advertised as being in something, that isn't there normally, I have been told to stay clear of. The exception is of course when you have a wack of peanut butter covered in chocolate..then it's okay.
I think in that case, they feed the chickens high-omega-3 food, rather than adding it to the eggs afterwards.
Yup, the omega-3 eggs are made by feeding the chickens flax seed (which is high in omega-3 fatty acids). The procedure for that was invented by Dr. Steve Lesson at the University of Guelph, one of my many alma maters. Go Guelph!

As for the fibre in yogurt, they are using a soluble fibre called "inulin" (it comes from chicory root - so I don't know if I'd refer to it as "artificial" exactly). Results from clinical trials with inulin appear to be mixed (e.g., may help regulate blood cholesterol, depends on the study). However, as Suz points out, just adding fibre to a product doesn't make it good - if it's full of sugars and other things that aren't good for you. As well, we need both soluble and insoluble fibre (insoluble fibre is good for your gastrointestinal tract) [oddly, that Slate article calls them "dietary" and "functional" - I've never heard them referred to in that way before - I mean, soluble fibre also comes from the diet!] So, if people eat a bunch of this fibre-enriched yogurt/ice cream and say "hey, I've gotten 100% of the fibre I need for today," when they really haven't gotten any insoluble fibre and they've also consumed a lot of sugar. So, yeah, it's definitely something that the marketers are jumping on and its a bit disingenuous to promote these foods as "healthy, high fibre" and neglecting to mention all the sugars and such.

OK, I'm done hijacking your blog. This just totally brought out my nutrition nerdery!
for a lot of people too much fiber & whole grains & dairy give you the runs
Beth, I was hoping you might comment, since this is your area of expertise, Ph.D. in nutrition and all.

And yes, too much fibre (especially insoluble) can lead to digestive issues, but most often your body will adjust if you up your intake slowly, and there's lots of evidence that it has all sorts of benefits. In general, with our western diet we get far too little fibre, so for most people eating more is what we need to do. And the best source is still whole vegetables, grains, and fruits.

Unfortunately for me, having had a chunk of my cancerous lower intestine removed, and currently being on medication that, uh, tends to clear things out every couple of days, eating very fibrous foods (especially stuff like flax seed) can be pretty uncomfortable, so I have to watch it. But I'm far from typical. If you have a regular, fully functioning bowel and aren't taking experimental chemotherapy, load up on the good real fibre: eat your fruits and veggies!
Fiber not good for you!

Oh, I wouldn't go that far. And Dr. Eades, the author of the site you pointed to, Anonymous, has books to sell, so I'm not sure I'd entirely buy his argument either.
The vagueness about what the added fibre in Activia yoghurt actually does (at least in the beginning) resulted in one of my favourite grocery store conversations ever.

I noticed a guy standing in front of the Activia display holding a container of yoghurt and staring at it with great puzzlement. He stayed like this for at least two minutes. I walked over, tapped him on the shoulder and said "It makes you poop". At this he exhaled loudly and said in an exasperated voice "Well, why don't they just friggin' say that on the label?"
I remember as a kid wondering what the hell "keeps you regular" meant. Like, if you don't eat fibre, you're weird or something?