On June 14th, 2018 the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidance regarding the classification of isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates as dietary fiber. While seemingly a very dry, overly-technical document, this guidance has far reaching ramifications for food and supplement producers, dietitians and nutritional professionals, and for anyone reading the dietary information on the back panel of a package of food. This novel guidance also reiterates the FDA’s position that clinical evidence should be the basis for regulatory decisions. In this case, the FDA has stipulated that isolated or non-digestible carbohydrates must provide at least one physiological benefit in order to be classified as dietary fiber.

The shake-up began in May of 2016, when the FDA issued their initial guidance on the importance of physiological benefit to the definition of dietary fiber. Beta-glucan, psyllium husk, cellulose, guar gum, locust bean gum, pectin, and hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose formed the preliminary list of dietary fibers. Those that joined the list in June include: Mixed plant cell wall fibers, arabinoxylan, alginate, inulin and inulin-type fructans, resistant starch, galactooligosaccharide, polydextrose, and resistant maltodextrin/dextrin. Notably, the list of physiological benefits reflects the diverse sources and structures of these non-digestible carbohydrates.

FDA-approved Dietary Fibers and their Health Benefits:

    • Beta-glucan and psyllium reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
    • Guar gum, locust bean gum, pectin, and hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose lower cholesterol levels.
    • Resistant starch, arabinoxylan, alginate, and inulin have positive effects on blood glucose and/or insulin levels.
    • Resistant dextrin, inulin, and galactooligosaccahride have positive effects on mineral absorption.
    • Polydextrose reduces energy intake during meals.
    • Cellulose has positive effects on laxation.

9Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the prebiotic concept is further incorporated into the FDA’s language. With many of the currently recognized health benefits likely occurring due to prebiotic, gut microbiome-modifying effects, recognition of prebiotics as a subcategory of dietary fiber is surely not far off.



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Prebiotics vs Probiotics: What’s The Difference?

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