Fighting Flab With Functional Fibre

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Weight and obesity are large global concerns today, and food and beverage manufacturers can help consumers achieve successful weight management through fortifying products with functional ingredients like fibre. By Christian Philippsen, managing director, Beneo Asia Pacific

Many consumers across Asia Pacific are in a constant struggle when it comes to managing their weight. Despite the growing awareness of the importance of eating healthy and more consumers choosing balanced diets, as highlighted by Nielsen in a 2015 report, there are still a substantial

proportion of consumers who have difficulties following a restricted diet, or changing their eating habits towards healthier eating patterns.

Also, weight management is a serious issue as obesity has been linked to many chronic health problems including type II diabetes and high blood pressure. What is widely known is that obesity is mainly caused by consuming more than the expended energy.

For successful weight management, avoiding weight gain is as important as losing weight. Consumers who aspire to maintain a healthy body weight need food that offers a balanced nutritional profile and supports their weight management efforts in a sustainable manner.

Leveraging Functional Ingredients

Certainly, the most effective way in weight management is cutting down on calorie consumption and/or increasing daily activity. We all know that. However, it is easier said than done as many consumers now lead hectic urban lifestyles.

Many are struggling to find the time to exercise. It does not help that many are also turning to convenience foods which are often high in fat, sugar, or both.

At the same time, consumers want to have foods that are not only convenient, but with taste and textures that they are familiar with. They also do not want to make major adjustments in how they eat and what they eat.

With today’s right choice of functional ingredients, food manufacturers are able to offer nutritionally balanced food products that cater to consumers’ taste preferences—exactly what they want.

The good news is that food manufacturers are now reinventing their product recipes and manufacturing processes to introduce healthier options of existing food products. These help consumers adjust to a healthier diet without having to drastically change their eating habits.

For instance, some manufacturers are applying functional ingredients like chicory-derived prebiotic fibres into their manufacturing processes. Fortifying foods with these natural fibres can have positive effects in helping consumers maintain energy intake balance, while controlling obesity and weight problems.

These fibres not only influence the caloric density (some as low as 1.5kcal/g) of food and contribute to reducing the calories of a single food item, but also decrease the total diet energy intake—in other words, they help consumers eat less, naturally.

Natural chicory root fibres also have a mild sweetness profile, which can help manufacturers to even reduce the amount of sugar in the final product, thus decreasing the amount of total calories. They can therefore be the ideal bifunctional ingredient for manufacturers who want to support consumers in their weight management efforts.

Blood Sugar Management For A Healthier Life

Interestingly, some of the aforementioned fibres such as inulin and oligofructose can be used to replace high glycaemic carbohydrates like glucose, sucrose, or maltodextrins found in white bread or boiled potatoes on a weight to weight basis.

These high glycaemic carbohydrates quickly release glucose into the bloodstream resulting in extreme blood glucose ‘spikes’. By lowering the glycaemic profile of products, they therefore help to manage blood glucose levels.

Only when having in mind blood sugar management can weight management be effective and sustainable. Lower levels of the regulating hormone, insulin, are beneficial for weight and blood glucose management, and this can be achieved with lower blood sugar levels.

However, merely replacing sugars with high glycaemic ingredients will not help consumers in their efforts; high glycaemic diets can still lead to the onset of type II diabetes and obesity. Therefore, oligofructose and inulin can also be used in combination with high intensity sweeteners to create a more balanced and sugar-like palate without any off-taste.

Easy Application Of Functional Fibres

Food manufacturers can consider fortifying foods that traditionally require high amounts of sugar, such as candy/confectionery, frozen desserts and fruit preparations, with oligofructose and inulin. With them having a mild sweetness and being soluble, they act as natural sugar reducers that can cut back on the calories whilst creating a more balanced taste and texture profile that is acceptable to consumers with discerning palates.

Inulin and oligofructose can be used to fortify foods that are required to meet the highest quality requirements. Extracted from chicory root, they are of 100 percent vegetable origin, and are is suitable for a wide variety of foods such as dairy, baby food, baked goods, beverages, soups and sauces.

Best Of Both Worlds

There is no doubt that consumers in Asia Pacific are choosing to eat healthier. Many are now actively seeking healthier and more natural food products.

Between 2012 and 2014, the Asia Pacific region saw a 15 percent growth in the sales of healthy food products, reported an AC Nielsen survey released in 2015. It also revealed that more than 90 percent of consumers were willing to pay a premium for foods with health benefits.

Health-conscious and weight watching consumers are driving the trend for food products with a more nutritionally balanced profile.

They can now keep the common eating habits while reaping the health benefits of nutritionally balanced food options. With that, consumers are now able to enjoy the best of both worlds.