Dietary fiber: classification, chemical analyses, and food sources.

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Dietary fiber's role in the prevention and treatment of constipation has long been known, but now fiber is touted as a cure for many of the ills in Western countries. Although some data exist to relate dietary fiber intake to certain diseases, lack of agreement on what dietary fiber is and how it should be measured make interpreting the data difficult. Further, not all dietary fiber is created equal. Water-soluble fibers, such as pectin and gums, have little effect on stool weight and hence are not appropriate treatment for patients with constipation. Water-insoluble fibers, such as cellulose and hemicellulose, are most effective in aiding laxation but may also limit absorption of minerals and possibly vitamins. Wheat bran is a good source of hemicellulose; vegetables supply cellulose to the diet. Most agencies are recommending a doubling or tripling of dietary fiber intake. Typical recommendations are set at 25 to 50 grams of dietary fiber daily. Different analytical methods for dietary fiber yield conflicting fiber values, and dietary fiber values do not exist for many foods, making fiber recommendations controversial and difficult to achieve. Fiber in the diet should ideally be increased by the consumption of unrefined breads and cereals and more fruits and vegetables. Vegetarians routinely consume 40 to 50 gm dietary fiber daily without ill effect. Fiber supplements may be appropriate for some patients, but the composition of the fiber should be known and be appropriate for the disease being treated. Before fiber supplements are marketed, clinical trials should be conducted to support the use of the supplements in the prevention and treatment of disease.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1164-1171
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1987


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