CODEX-aligned dietary fiber definitions help to bridge the ‘fiber gap’
St. Catherine University, Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emerita of Food & Nutrition, 4030 Valentine Ct. Arden, Hills, 55112, MN, USA
Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-34Published: 12 April 2014
A comprehensive dietary fiber (DF) definition was adopted by the CODEX Alimentarius Commission (CAC) (1) to reflect the current state of knowledge about DF, (2) to recognize that all substances that behave like fiber regardless of how they are produced can be named as DF if they show physiological benefits, and (3) to promote international harmonization for food labeling and food composition tables. This review gives the history and evolution of the state of DF knowledge as looked at by refinements in DF methods and definitions subsequent to the launch of the DF hypothesis. The refinements parallel both interventional and epidemiological research leading to better understanding of the role of DF in contributing to the numerous physiological benefits imparted by all the various digestion resistant carbohydrates. A comparison of the CODEX definition (including its footnote that authorizes the inclusion of polymers with DP 3–9) and approved CODEX Type 1 methods with other existing definitions and methods will point out differences and emphasize the importance of adoption of CODEX-aligned definitions by all jurisdictions. Such harmonization enables comparison of nutrition research, recommendations, food composition tables and nutrition labels the world over. A case will be made that fibers are analogous to vitamins, in that they vary in structure, function and amount needed, but each when present in the right amount contributes to optimal health. Since the intake of DF is significantly below recommended levels throughout the world, the recognition that ‘all fibers fit’ is an important strategy in bridging the ‘fiber gap’ by enfranchising and encouraging greater intake of foods with inherent and added DF. Fortifying foods with added DF makes it easier to increase intakes while maintaining calories at recommended levels.