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Dietary fibre supplementation

Dietary fibre supplements have been proven help normalise bowel movements, lower cholesterol and maintain stable blood sugar levels. However, this does not mean that they should be taken in replacement for natural high fibre foods.

Some may be tricked into thinking that taking dietary fibre supplements or adding powdered fibre to their foods will make them more healthy. However, consuming processed foods with added dietary fibres does not make them much healthier. This is because dietary fibre supplements lack the essential vitamins, minerals and other compounds which are present in naturally high fibre foods.

While it is essential to have adequate dietary fibre in our diet, studies have warned that other nutrients should not be neglected as health benefits are not solely obtained from the intake of fibre. Health benefits are also imparted from the vitamins, minerals and other compounds in the food as well. For example, fibre added refined food is less healthy compared to unrefined food without added fibre, as the latter retains all the healthful components of the grain such as vitamins, minerals etc.

Supplements tend to contain a certain type of dietary fibre on its own, while high fibre natural foods will be able to provide a wide variety of dietary fibres. Consuming a variety of dietary fibres is important as they provide different health benefits. For instance, psyllium has been shown to lower low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol while inulin fructooligosaccharide has been shown to enhance beneficial gut bacteria.

Precautions and side effects

When using supplements it is also important to be cautious not to overdose as consuming more than or equal to 40 grams/day of fibre can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients and active ingredients in drugs. Flatulence is also a common side effect.

Having said that, there are no proven harmful effects of fibre supplementation. In overweight individuals, isolated soluble fibre supplementation has shown to facilitate improved blood glucose maintenance. Fructooligosaccharide supplementation and wheat dextrin supplementation has been shown to increase satiety and decrease hunger feelings.

These supplements may also be useful if naturally high fibre foods are not readily available, such as when in foreign places, or when one experiences difficulty in meeting the daily required dietary fibre intake recommendation.

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