'Fake' Fiber in Your Food? How to Spot It


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  70 comments   :  32,352 Views

Studies over the last two decades have revealed ways to chemically alter naturally digestible starches. The chemical modifications introduce bonds that make them non-digestible by human enzymes in the digestive tract. Benefits of the newly manufactured starch fiber additives are largely unknown.

We have talked about the new manufactured fibers known as stealth fiber. We have mentioned there is a new fiber category in the midst of the FDA rulemaking process apparently with the full backing of industry. New products are finding a place at the manufacturing table. New fiber enhancement products are being added so baked goods, snack foods, breakfast cereals, and nutrition bars can meet "good source of fiber" or "excellent source of fiber" labeling claims. Now we need to talk about how you can use this information.

You will not find "stealth fiber" listed on the food label. You may see or hear "modified natural fibers" used in marketing campaigns. Strange derivative terms for natural portions of wheat, potato, or corn are more likely to appear on labels. It will be important for consumers to have an understanding of such terms as an indicator of modification. Here are some specifics to help you decipher food labels as you interpret product fiber sources.

The term resistant starch is becoming more and more common. These starches are both naturally occurring as well as manufactured. When you eat whole foods such as whole grain breads, lentils, beans or brown rice, about five percent of the starch is a natural source of resistant starch. This small percentage is considered non-glycemic because it travels intact to the large intestine. However, the remaining ninety-five percent is digestible and does have a glycemic response. Manufactures have found chemical ways to create ingredients with high resistant starch content to boost otherwise low fiber foods that mimic the natural resistant fiber. Commercially manufactured forms of resistant starch you may see include HYLON VII, Hi-maize 1043, NOVELOSE 240, ActiStar, CrystaLean. You may also see labels listing high-amylose maize starch, recrystallised maize starch, or tapioca starch. These are frequently used in the low-carbohydrate foods market.

Inulin is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and herbs like wheat, artichokes, asparagus, and chicory root. When you consume it in its original starchy form as part of a whole food, you consume a fructan comprised of fructose units. Manufactures have learned to modify these fructan properties and new fiber definitions allow its addition for additional fiber. Approximately 60 percent or more of today's fiber fortification is from modified inulin in forms such as syrups, powders, or crisped pieces. Look for ingredients on food labels with other names such as beta(2-1)fructans, Chicory Extract, Chicory Inulin, Dahlia Extract, Dahlia Inulin, Fructo-Oligosaccharides (may also be Fructooligosaccharides), Long-chain Oligosaccharides, Oligosaccharides, or Prebiotics.

Other manufactured fibers that meet the functional fiber definition that you may see on ingredient labels include isolated beta-glucans, galactomannans, isolated lignin, low methoxylated pectins, ispaghula husk, modified cellulose, methylcellulose, propylcellulose, resistant dextrins and polydextrose. Polydextrose is one to pay special attention to if you have gastrointestinal issues since it is created by combining dextrose in the form of corn sugar with sorbitol. When an item contains one-half ounce of polydextrose or more, the FDA requires the following warning, "Sensitive individuals may experience a laxative effect from excessive consumption of this product."

Fiber supplements have been a long-standing form of manufactured fiber. These are helpful for people with regulatory issues secondary to a disease state, medication use, or whole food fiber limitations. They provide a valuable alternative to stool softener options. However, if you are using them as a way to boost your fiber intake instead of getting it from whole foods, be aware of the ingredients and their manufactured nature. Benefiber powder's first ingredient is wheat dextrin and Citrucel now contains Smartfiber which is methylcellulose. Metamucil on the other hand contains psyllium husk. Know what you are buying and be sure you are buying the right item for the correct purpose especially if you have a medical condition or take other medications.

The Bottom Line

More and more foods such as yogurt, ice cream, white breads, toaster treats, and sugary cereals are marketed as a good source of fiber. Caution is encouraged when selecting processed foods promoting fiber. This is especially true for processed foods highlighting a low net carb ratio. Typically, these contain manufactured fibers added to boost the fiber count in order to market it as one that is low in carbohydrates regardless of its total calorie level or total carbohydrate contribution. Instead, look for labels that contain oat bran and wheat bran as their fiber source.

If you are having trouble meeting your weight loss goals and your diet includes many manufactured fibers, work to remove those in favor of the whole food alternatives such as dried beans, legumes, citrus fruits and berries as well as nuts and seeds. This will ensure you are getting beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients along with your fiber. If disease or medications cause irregularity issues that require a fiber supplement, read the ingredient label carefully to be sure what you are getting. Marketing hype can make things confusing. Your medical provider or pharmacist is also a helpful resource.

Because manufactured fiber is an evolving area in the food industry, compiling a complete list of manufactured fiber ingredient names is difficult. By becoming aware of some of the terms, you will more easily navigate marketing confusion and labeling games as you seek to minimize manufactured fiber intake.

Which are you getting more of in your diet, real fiber or manufactured isolated fiber? Are you getting the health benefits you thought?

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  • 70
    I know while fruits nd vegetables are best but I don't know which fiber "add-on" is ok - 10/24/2017   9:39:48 PM
  • 69
    One simple way to avoid these is to buy an item only when you can understand the ingredient list.
    And if the list is too long to read, ditch it. :) - 1/6/2011   12:45:23 PM
    this article is a bit hard to follow.... but I get the gist. - 9/29/2010   9:24:56 PM
  • 67
    I'll stick to natural fiber in my food. Too bad so many people will never know the truth about manufactured fiber. - 9/6/2010   8:52:00 PM
  • 66
    Stick to all natural whole foods. Your body wasn't designed to digest all the added chemicals and engineered foods. - 9/5/2010   10:54:15 PM
    There is a world of difference in what your digestive system thinks of these "engineered" fiber foods as compared to the whole food real thing. - 9/5/2010   11:58:32 AM
    Thank you for this information! - 9/4/2010   10:07:01 PM
  • 63
    Thanks you for that information.
    My goodness - food is far too scary at times. It would be so nice if agencies would get themselves together and let us know what is good and safe and acceptable. - 9/4/2010   4:19:43 PM
  • 62
    Thanks for making me aware of some of the new things. I like real food!! - 9/4/2010   4:07:22 PM
  • 61
    Instead of adding all this highly-processed, imitation, junk to our foods, I wish manufacturers would work on making these products using only whole foods. It is a shame. I try not to eat any highly-processed foods at all. It leaves out a lot of foods I grew up thinking were a part of a "normal" diet, but it's the best way to go. - 9/4/2010   12:35:56 PM
  • 60
    Thanks for the great article. Since some of us have problems with fake fiber it is really worrisome that we'll have to watch it so closely. Whole, natural foods are always the best! - 9/4/2010   10:06:52 AM
  • 59
    Back to eating potato salad and getting the "real" inulin then............... - 9/3/2010   9:10:14 PM
  • 58
    Frankenfoods - 9/3/2010   6:29:17 PM
  • 57
    That tics me off. They are fooling us again and not giving us the whole truth. We haved been lied to again. Makes me want to start a revolt against food companies. Thanks for this eye opener. - 9/3/2010   3:53:06 PM
  • 56
    Thank you for this info. Will pay closer attention to labels. - 9/3/2010   3:13:34 PM
  • 55
    Another reason to read the labels. I used to think fiber was fiber no matter where it came from. Thanks for the information. - 9/3/2010   2:01:50 PM
  • 54
    This crummy fiber does a number on my stomach! Fiber One and Fiber Plus bars are called 'fart bars' at my office - and a quick google search shows lots of other people agree.

    Chicory root anything and sorbitol do the worst damage to my stomach- it is off for up to a week if I eat either. Instead of choosing ready-made supposedly fiber-rich snacks, I got a whole wheat cookbook and choose more naturally fiber-rich recipes. - 9/3/2010   1:53:50 PM
  • 53
    I had no idea....I believe the natural fibre is best for us. Thanks for the information and keeping us informed. - 9/3/2010   1:14:25 PM
  • 52
    I love learning as much as possible about food labels. It's hard to find whats "good" or "bad" out there. I rarely read blog posts all the way through but I did with this one! Thanks!! - 9/3/2010   11:10:30 AM
  • 51
    Thanks for this blog! Just more reasons to avoid processed foods as much as possible! - 9/3/2010   10:23:25 AM
    I'm definitely getting most of my fiber from wholesome sources like fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains. However, some of the fake fiber has snuck in. I remember seeing some of those ingredients in foods I've bought. I didn't think twice about them at the time. May have to now. - 9/3/2010   10:07:28 AM
  • 49
    This gives you one more thing to look for when you read labels. Thank you for the helpful information. I keep learning new nutrition information every day - Thanks SP. - 9/3/2010   9:55:47 AM
  • 48
    My heads hurts! (from being ill and all this new info)
    I think I will just continue to real real unadulterated food.
    Thanks for the info, I'll reread it when I feel better. - 9/3/2010   8:41:24 AM
    Yep, eating fresh every day is better, very interesting!! - 9/3/2010   8:26:58 AM
  • 46
    I'm shocked and had no idea. Why don't these companies concentrate on producing and distributing REAL food??? - 9/3/2010   8:20:18 AM
    Wow. Resistant starch, inulin, fructan properties, functional fibers, and possibly more.

    I used to think there was only soluble & non-soluble. - 9/3/2010   7:46:03 AM
    Or just don't buy foods with ingredients that you don't know . . . and have difficulty pronouncing. - 9/3/2010   7:43:09 AM
  • 43
    This is why I bought one box of Fiber One bars, ate them, felt bloaty, and just walked away and started eating granola bars with, you know, REAL FOOD in them. The FIRST ingredient in F.O. Bars is Chicory Root exctract -- gross! The first ingredient isn't even a real, natural foodstuff. Why not just eat some oats or other whole grains?? - 9/3/2010   6:59:19 AM
  • 42
    What a great article. The entire series concerning fiber was such a plus this past month. Educational and it's helped me understand more about the foods I now stay away from. Consequently, feeling much better for it. Thanks so much! - 9/3/2010   6:39:32 AM
  • 41
    Easier and safer and cheaper to just cook up a batch of beans. We are always looking for shortcuts. Simple is better. Ingredients we don't recognize, not good. - 9/3/2010   1:18:12 AM
  • 40
    I use Sparkpeople to track the nutrition content in my food, including the fiber. I am wondering now if the fiber totals for the day are real or manufactured fiber..... - 9/3/2010   1:09:00 AM
  • 39
    This was a very informative article! - 9/2/2010   11:59:21 PM
  • 38
    This was very informative. I will search for the ingredients when I read the nutrition labels. - 9/2/2010   11:56:18 PM
  • 37
    hi, how do i save this article to my favorites? i don't see a red heart to click on to save it for later reading. thanks for any tips. :) - 9/2/2010   11:35:13 PM
    I guess I will have to eat fresh even more now. What's next? - 9/2/2010   10:20:17 PM
  • 35
    Great, just when I was getting the hang of reading labels and thinking I was getting pretty good at it, I am back to square one. I would rather be knowledgeable than ignorant so I appreciate the information.

    I think the FDA should be more concerned with what is truly healthy for us than concerned with helping Big Business get bigger. - 9/2/2010   10:09:04 PM
  • 34
    Very Interesting article.... eye opener!!! - 9/2/2010   9:49:43 PM
    not safe to eat anything any more . fake food . bad food . - 9/2/2010   8:18:34 PM
    oh my goodness . fake food . what can we do to make sure our children are getting real food . the stores are lieing to us flat out . - 9/2/2010   8:14:54 PM
    Is anyone else worried about what all this factory made food is doing to our kids? I'd be very interested to see some long term studies done on how the lab-created food products affect children, who's bodies are still developing. After all, they're eating what we're eating. - 9/2/2010   6:07:03 PM
  • 30
    It goes back to gramma knew what to eat to be healthy. - 9/2/2010   5:00:42 PM
  • 29
    Thanks for this information. I learned something else I need to watch out for at the store when shopping for groceries. - 9/2/2010   4:27:34 PM
  • 28
    Real vegetables, real whole grains, real fruit. Call it what you will...if it has to go through a factory process before it gets to my stomach...I assume the fiber is long gone. - 9/2/2010   3:24:39 PM
  • 27
    GAK! - 9/2/2010   3:12:01 PM
  • 26
    Thanks so much for this information...it is helpful to know what to look for...but I guess the best thing is whole foods and limited processed foods are the best thing!! - 9/2/2010   2:56:34 PM
  • 25
    It is really a shame that most people have to depend on others to get their food from. I am in the process of trying to buy a place where I can grow and can or freeze all my food.As for what to take if I am irregular I have found that buying flax seed in the bulk and grinding it into a powder in my blender is the best laxative around. I just add a large teaspoon to my oatmeal or sprinlke it on a salad or over vegetables. It has a nutty flavor and within a day or so I don't have any problems. I found with the store bought ones. benefiber and those like it will give me cramping and gas. The flax seed doesn't. But I also try and live by the rule if I can't pronounce it I don't eat it. - 9/2/2010   2:50:58 PM
  • 24
    I take 4 teaspoons of PSYILIUM HUSK each day, which is 28 grams of fiber, so I'm not concerned about what is in food for my fiber intake. I avoid "fake" food as much as possible & stay with apples & other fruits & veggies, etc. I shop the "Health food aisle" and buy those brands that I know are healthy. - 9/2/2010   2:25:18 PM
    Great article, thanks for sharing.
    I agree with you SUNDAYPAPERS! - 9/2/2010   2:04:02 PM
  • 22
    Thank you so much for this very important information. - 9/2/2010   1:51:44 PM
  • 21
    great thanks so much - 9/2/2010   1:37:51 PM

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