Scientific studies continue to show the various health benefits of consuming more fiber, and ways to incorporate fiber into foods and beverages continue to increase. Consumers tend to favor products promoted for fiber content, but recent Mintel research shows they could learn a lot more about fiber. Twenty-five per cent of respondents thought fiber was only necessary for people who have problems with irregularity or other digestive problems.

“Despite the fact that research shows that a lack of fiber is linked to various cancers, heart disease and diabetes, 22% of consumers don’t know enough about fiber to know it is important to their health,” Mintel said. “Furthermore, 37% believe they can get enough fiber from regular foods, so supplements and food with added fiber are unnecessary.”

Added fiber benefits may come in such forms as resistant starch, inulin and beta-glucan from oats or barley. Peas, too, have become a source of fiber-rich ingredients.

“The concept of dietary fiber as a homogeneous category is simply outdated,” said Rhonda Witwer, senior business development manager of nutrition for National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J. “There are many ingredients that classify as dietary fiber, each of which has different combinations of formulation properties, organoleptics, health benefits and mechanisms of action within the body. These differences are very important because just like not all fibers can be formulated into one type of food, not all fibers offer benefits in one specific area of health.”

National Starch offers Hi-maize resistant starch and Hi-maize whole grain corn flour. The company may turn to published clinical trials to verify the ingredients’ various health benefits.

“They work best when substituting for flour in baked goods, snacks, or formulated into cereal, pasta, nutrition bars and smoothies,” Ms. Witwer said of Hi-maize resistant starch and whole grain corn flour.

This year, a study appearing on-line Feb. 17 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed the quantity of resistant starch in foods correlates with blood glucose response and reduced food intake after two hours. The University of Toronto research team also found Hi-maize whole grain flour and Hi-maize resistant starch increased satiety and reduced food intake after two hours. This is the first time resistant starch content alone has been shown to correlate with a satiety benefit, according to National Starch Food Innovation.

Hi-maize resistant starch, a natural insoluble fiber, improves insulin sensitivity, which is beneficial in the area of diabetes, Ms. Witwer added. Since the fermentation of resistant starch produces butyrate, a food for colon cells, a substantial body of evidence suggests resistant starch has a correlation to reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Bowel movement is perhaps the most important health feature of fiber, said Diederick Meyer, director of scientific and regulatory affairs for Sensus. Certain fibers may help in lowering cholesterol and in glucose response, which may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, Dr. Meyer said. Recent debate has focused on fiber’s potential benefit in reducing colon cancer risk, he said.

Sensus offers ingredients based on inulin, which is sourced from chicory root. The company will give a presentation on Frutalose SF75, its new sweet chicory fiber ingredient, on July 18 at IFT 10, the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Chicago. Frutalose SF75, since it has a low-caloric value of 1.6 calories per gram and is 65% as sweet as sucrose, may be used to improve the nutritional value of school meals by reducing sugar and calorie count while increasing fiber levels, according to Sensus. Potential applications include confections, cereal, bars, fruit preparations, sweet baked foods and beverages.

“Certainly there has been a big trend for fiber here in the U.S. in the past couple of years,” said Scott Turowski, technical manager of Sensus America, Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J. “Another big push is to take out bad things. Reducing sugar is a huge issue, especially when it comes to children’s products.”

Products containing beta-glucan from oat or barley are eligible for a Food and Drug Administration heart health claim, said Rajen Mehta, director of fiber applications for SunOpta Ingredients Group, Chelmsford, Mass. The health claim states, “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 3 grams of soluble fiber per day from beta-glucan may reduce the risk of heart disease.” A product must contain at least 0.75 grams of beta-glucan in one serving to qualify for the claim.

SunOpta offers Barley Balance, a barley beta-glucan. Researchers at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom showed Barley Balance reduces the rate of starch digestion and absorption and thus plays a role in postprandial glycemia and diabetes, Dr. Mehta said.

“These and other recent studies demonstrate that Barley Balance retards the absorption of some starches and sugars and triggers release of satiety hormones such as ghrelin and peptide YY, resulting in reduced consumption of food, which in turn plays a role in preventing diabetes and other diseases,” Dr. Mehta said.

Barley beta-glucan may be incorporated into a variety of foods, including bread, pasta, muffins, tortillas, crackers, cereal, nutrition bars and beverages, Dr. Mehta said. Oat fiber may be used in bread, cereal, snack products, pasta, meat, beverages and pet food.

Dr. Mehta added pea fiber may be incorporated into a variety of organic and conventional foods, including nutrition bars, bread, crackers, pasta, meat and meat substitutes. A clinic trial at the University of Manitoba’s Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals recently conducted a trial that found the dietary fiber content in pea fiber or whole pea flour helped to regulate insulin on overweight adults with elevated cholesterol levels, Dr. Mehta said.

GTC Nutrition, Golden, Colo., offers three different fiber ingredients. NutraFlora, a soluble prebiotic fiber, supports digestive function, increases calcium absorption and supports a healthy immune system. It is available in powder form suitable for use in both cold and hot beverages as well as a variety of food products.

BioAgave, a plant-derived source of inulin, supports digestive health and is suitable for beverages, dairy, baked foods, cereals and confectionery. Purimune, a galactooligosaccharide or GOS, supports immune health by nourishing the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. It is available in powder form and is heat and pH stable, meaning it may work in fruit and beverage products with high acidic content.