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Fiber supplements shift bacteria and trigger weight loss

By Tim Sandle     Nov 27, 2014 in Science
A new study suggests that the addition of dietary fiber to a diet leads to a shift in the gut toward beneficial bacteria. This reduces risks of cancer and can help with weight loss.
The study showed that two specific functional fibers: polydextrose and soluble corn fiber, are beneficial to the human body. Here there were two important experiment conclusions:
The first finding indicated that the addition of dietary fiber reduced the risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases. The second finding was that when taken over the long-term, the inclusion of fiber was also found to have the potential to assist in weight loss.
These effects occur due to changes in the types of bacteria found in the human gut. Beneficial bacteria in the gut carry out a range of useful functions. These include fermenting proteins, carbohydrates, or other substrates. These activities are associated with health benefits.
For the study, 20 men, assessed as being of good heath, with an average fiber intake of 14 grams a day were given snack bars to supplement their diet. The men were split into three groups. The control group received bars that contained no fiber; whereas the first test group were given bars that contained 21 grams of polydextrose, which is a common fiber food additive. The third control group were given bars with 21 grams of soluble corn fiber. Throughout the study the fecal samples of the ne were analysed for the types of bacteria they contained.
The bacterial results were shown from whole-genome sequencing, which allowed scientists to explore the full detail of bacterial genomic data.
The study showed that the consumption of the two fibers helped to shift the composition of gut bacteria towards the types that undertake the necessary biochemical processes (microbiologically, this is a shift from bacteria classed as Firmicutes and towards bacteria classed as Bacteroidetes.) It has also been shown that people with higher numbers of Firmicutes tend to be more obese compared with the general population.
The recommendation is that people consume 25 to 38 grams per day in order to maximise health benefits.
The findings have been published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in a paper titled “Fiber supplementation influences phylogenetic structure and functional capacity of the human intestinal microbiome: follow-up of a randomized controlled trial.”
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