What we all knew and considered to be "fiber" is now up for debate. As of right now, the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing 26 ingredients that food manufacturers add artificially to processed foods to claim that they have fiber content. The FDA will determine if these additives have a health benefit and can, therefore, be considered fiber.
The list of the fibrous ingredients includes some substances that are pronounceable and familiar. Others are clearly synthetic like retrograded cornstarch, and -- the barely pronouncable-- xylooligosaccharidesgum. Many sources are plant-based including acacia and bamboo fiber. Experts are debating if manufactured sources of fiber are as easily digestible by the body as natural sources and are critical of the FDA including them on nutrition facts labels.
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The FDA, on the other hand, claims that all fiber delivers a range of health benefits. Some of the listed benefits include help lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels, as well as blood pressure.Fiber can also aid laxation and bowel function, and it can promote a feeling of fullness, which may lead people to eat less.
Interestingly, the FDA is evaluating synthetic fibers to determine whether isolated and synthetic fibers provide a beneficial physiological effect to human health.
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The food industry is unsurprisingly divided with some believing that only natural sources of fiber deliver the required benefits for a fully-functioning human body. According to them, the real benefits of fiber are received in conjunction with a host of other beneficial compounds such as vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Others argue that since most people don't consume enough fiber, supplementing their deficit with added synthetic fibers will go a long way to meeting dietary recommendations. Although there are arguments on both sides of the fence, it remains to be seen whether or not the FDA will approve the new list of 26 fiber sources.