A Brief Overview and Comparison of Global Fiber Regulations
Dietary fiber, which has a long history of scientific research, has been identified as a nutrient that is often underconsumed. This was most recently noted in the 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dietary fiber encompasses a diverse group of carbohydrate compounds with a variety of structures and functional properties. There has been a general understanding about which carbohydrates constitute a dietary fiber based on composition and physiological effects. Analytical methods have been developed and are relied on to classify dietary fibers and demonstrate resistance to digestion in the small intestine. However, simply having the ability to measure the presence of compounds that are resistant to digestion may not be adequate. The current Codex definition of dietary fiber promotes the concept that compounds that behave like fiber in vivo, regardless of source, can be considered dietary fiber provided that physiological health benefits can be shown. In general, the health benefits of dietary fiber include improved gut health (laxation, transit time, fecal bulking, stool softness, and fermentation), glycemic control (blood glucose and/or insulin attenuation), cholesterol reduction (total cholesterol and/or LDL cholesterol), weight management (reduced caloric intake and increased satiety), and increased mineral absorption. This article briefly reviews how scientific knowledge has evolved into regulatory definitions in various countries.