SACN report: Sugar in the spotlight, but more opportunities for fibre?

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

SACN recommendations for adults to effectively triple current intakes of fibre must be taken as seriously as calls to cut free sugars.
SACN recommendations for adults to effectively triple current intakes of fibre must be taken as seriously as calls to cut free sugars.

Related tags Dietary fibre Nutrition

A UK governmental committee on nutrition released its final report on carbohydrates last week. And while recommendations to slash sugar have taken the majority of the headlines, the report also offers opportunity through increasing fibre.

The report, published at the end of last week​, did away with earlier draft recommendations of a 10% upper limit on free sugar intake – instead opting for a recommendation that the UK population should get no more than 5% of daily energy from free sugars.

While the recommendations on sugar, including calls to cut the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, have made headline news, the report also calls for all adults and children to increase the amount of fibre in their diet by eating more fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods.

The report said those aged 16 and over should increase their intake of fibre to 30 grams a day, while 11- to 15-year-olds need 25 g and children aged five to 11 should get at least 20 g.

According to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), meeting these new recommendations for dietary fibre can be achieved through a balanced diet with meals based around wholegrain foods, increased fruit and vegetable intake, and consumption of fibre-rich snacks like those containing nuts and seeds.

“Innovative food solutions from manufacturers and retailers may also be needed to help consumers adopt dietary patterns to meet these goals,” ​said a BNF statement.

An analysis by Leatherhead Food Research added the SACN recommendation to increase fibre intakes is a significant move, and will be ‘equally challenging’ for consumers.

“It represents a major public health challenge given that the recommended level is three times higher than current intakes,”​ said the report.

Indeed, Dr Victoria Burley and Dr Charlotte Evans, both of the University of Leeds added that while the increase in the recommended intake levels is quite large, and will be a challenge to implement, the evidence of health benefits from consuming higher levels of dietary fibre from wholegrains is clear.

“The role that the food industry can play in reformulating and innovating will be a part of the solution,”​ said the Leatherhead analysis.

Industry opportunity

Through such reformulation, and by innovating with products and concepts that focus on wholegrains and increased fibre, there could be huge opportunity in the SACN recommendations for the food industry.

Indeed, the 30 grams per day recommendation provides added impetus to existing calls and efforts to fortify with fibre - and could help the ingredient mirror the huge success protein has witnessed in recent years, as demand soars based on healthy eating advice.

Ian Wright, director general of UK industry body the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said the industry would like to see the fibre recommendations ‘taken seriously’, adding that government, industry and the health community need to collaborate on a strategy to increase fibre intakes.

While there can be no doubt that this need for added fibre will throw up more issues in formulation, with both new and existing problems rearing their head, it is certain that such a strong recommendation to effectively triple current average intakes will mean that dietary fibres have a bright future in the creation of new foods … and drinks.

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