New horizons for the study of dietary fiber and health: a review
Dietary fibre has been consumed for centuries with known health benefits, but defining dietary fibre is a real challenge. From a functional perspective, dietary fibre is described as supporting laxation, attenuating blood glucose responses and assisting with cholesterol lowering. The problem is different types of dietary fibre have different effects, and new effects are increasingly observed, such as the influence on gut microbiota. Thus, a single definition may need to be described in more generic terms. Rather than being bound by a few functional definitions, we may need to embrace the possibilities of new horizons, and derive a working definition of dietary fibre based on a set of conceptual principles, rather than the limited definitions we have to date. To begin this process, a review of individual fibre types and their physiological effects would be helpful. Dietary fibre is a complex group of substances, and there is a growing interest in specific effects linked to fibre type. Different fractions of dietary fibre have different physiological properties, yet there is a paucity of literature covering the effects of all fibres. This paper describes a range of individual fibre types and identifies gaps in the literature which may expose new directions for a working definition of dietary fibre.