Why we should look to increase our dietary fibre intake

11th January 2019

A new review and meta-analysis, published in The Lancet, has underlined the importance of having a diet rich in dietary fibre to maintaining good health.

By looking at dozens of observational studies and randomised controlled trials over decades of research, an overall picture emerges that shows that people who consume higher levels of dietary fibre have a reduced risk of developing Type II diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.

“The sheer volume of evidence, together with the consistency of findings from both observational studies and randomised controlled trials shows that we can now be very confident that a high consumption of fibre from all sources, and particularly from whole-grain cereals, provide significant protection against the common diseases of later life that now place considerable strains on the NHS” commented Dr Ian Johnson, Emeritus Fellow at QIB

Importantly, the review, which was commissioned by the World Health Organisation, was able to take into account the quality of the fibre, rather than focussing solely on the quantity.

The findings support the current dietary recommendations to eat 30g of fibre per day from wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, as recommended by the UK ‘s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in 2015. Currently, most people don’t get close to this level, and there is a concern that the trend to low carbohydrate diets may exacerbate this if they don’t discriminate on the carbohydrate quality.

At the Quadram Institute, we’re looking at ways of helping to increase the quality of fibre in diets. We are looking at ways of increasing fibre content in crops, by improving the starch quality in wheat, the most widely grown cereal crop. We are looking to improve our understanding of how processing affects the fibre quality and nutrient release during digestion, and how this affects health. By studying in detail how starch is digested we can link the differences in structure at the molecular level to potential health benefits. Increasing the intake of pulses is a great way to increase fibre intakes. We are developing food ingredients from pulses that are high in fibre and also contain high amounts of resistant starch. Introducing these ingredients into everyday food products could make it easier for people to meet the recommended intakes.

Our ambition is to develop future foods that combine the health benefits of high fibre with the convenience and taste and texture qualities consumers demand. These foods won’t compensate for an unhealthy diet, but they may help by making it easier for everyone to get the recommended 30g of fibre every day.

Find out more in these videos from some of our researchers:

The NHS and the British Nutrition Foundation have some more information about dietary fibre and ways that you can increase your intake:


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