Supernutrient-Soluble Fibre

Dietary fibre generally refers to undigested food materials remained in our digestive tract. Their health protective roles are largely defined by their solubility, soluble or insoluble. Soluble fible is different from their insoluble counterpart which is well-known with its contribution in bowel movement as well as constipation and colon cancer prevention. What’s special with soluble fibre in that humble oatmeal porridge or bread?

Your blood cholesterol saver

The effect of soluble fibre on lowering blood cholesterol and subsequent reduction of heart disease risk has been well-documented in more than 50 years of research. The theory behind is that the fibre increases the loss of bile acid in the gut by forming complex to prevent absorption. The liver subsequently utilize blood cholesterol to synthesize bile acid and thus reduce the cholesterol level. Food and Drug Administration, US, recommends that just 3 g solube fibre such as Beta-glu-can, translating to 60g oatmeal everyday offers a great start to enjoy the heart-friendly benefit.

Your weight manager

Don’t ever underestimate the role of soluble fibre in weight management especially when it is cooked to from jelly-like paste, as you would see in oatmeal porridge, it works by slowing down the gut emptying its content which contributes to prolonged satiety. That is why adding more fibre in diet in lieu of calorie-dense food can help regulate your appetite and thus manage your weight.

Your blood sugar assistant

Soluble fibre-rich food typically has a lower Glycemic Index(GI), describing the ability of the carbohydrate in the food in raising blood sugar level after consumption. Evidence suggests that every gram of beta-glucan can lower the GI of a food with 50g carbohydrates by 4 units. The lower the GI of a food the less blood surge one will have after consuming the food. That implies more stable blood sugar level. Also due to the viscous property, soluble fibre can impede the digestion and absorption process in the gut that could help improve blood sugar level. This is good news for those with impaired the blood sugar modulation ability of soluble fibre by twice daily consumption of 5.1g psyllium husk, a type of soluble fibre, which effectively bring down the glycated haemoglobin (HbA1C) from 10.5%to 8.9% in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Bowel health keeper – irritable bowel syndrome

Soluble fibre has been found to soothe the gut with irritable bowel syndrome where sufferers usually have altered bowel habit, fell bloated and abdominal cramp. This sounding effect is postulated to be due to the short chain fatty acids produced from our gut microflora action on soluble fibre. These acids possess anti-inflammatory properly while act as prebiotics to promote bowel health.

Would fibre supplement help any further? Yet, mounting body od evidence suggests food source of soluble fibre such as legumes. Oat, barley, broccoli and apple may be more promising than supplement in chronic disease prevention. Enjoy 2 (fruit) plus 3 (vegetable) every day!


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  3. FDA Talk Paper. FDA allows whole oat foods to make health claim on reducing the risk of heart disease; 1997.21 January
  4. Ziai, S., Larijani, B., Akhoondzadeh, S., Fakhrzadeh, H., Dastpak, A., Bandarian, F., … Emami, T. (2005). Psyllium decreased serum glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin significantly in diabetic outpatients. J. Ethnopharmacology, 102, 202-207.
  5. Jenkins, A. L., Jenkins, D. J. A., Zdravkovidc, U., Wursch, P., Vuksan, V., Depression of the glycaemic index by high levels of beta-glucan fibre in two functional foods tested in type 2 diabetes. Eur. J. Clin.Nutr. 2002. 56, 622-628.
  6. Moayyedi P, Quigley  EM, Lacy BE. The effect of fiber supplementation on irritable bowel systematic review and meta-analysls. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014 Sep; 109(9):1367-74.

330 Tips provided by:  Ms Grace Lam  (Senior Dietitian - Centre for Nutritional Studies, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine, CUHK)

Date: 2015-08-01