Around the globe, fibre and calcium intakes are below the levels recommended by experts1,2,3 contributing to potential long-term public health implications1,3,4. New research, published this month in the British Journal of Nutrition, shows soluble corn fibre (SCF) may not simply boost fibre intake when added to foods, but can also increase the amount of beneficial bacteria present in the gut, while enhancing calcium absorption in adolescents1 . SCF is a prebiotic fibre that is well tolerated, and is easily incorporated into foods or beverages to boost fibre content. These latest results showing SCF can enhance calcium absorption are significant because during adolescence, a critical time for bone growth, dairy intake tends to decrease, resulting in inadequate calcium intake which is a vital mineral for building and maintaining strong bones.
Researchers studied the potential effect of SCF on calcium absorption and retention in adolescent children with a usual diet that was low in fibre. In a controlled dietary study, adolescent girls and boys who consumed 12g/day fibre from SCF absorbed significantly more calcium (a 12% increase versus a control) than when consuming no SCF. Additionally, the researchers found that when the adolescents consumed SCF, there was an increase in specific strains of beneficial gut bacteria, namely the phylum Bacteroidetes, and these increases were positively correlated with increases in calcium absorption. These results indicate that moderate daily intake of SCF may increase beneficial gut bacteria and also short-term calcium absorption in adolescents who are consuming less than recommended amounts of calcium.
'A decrease in milk consumption among adolescents has led to an increase in deficiency of calcium in the diet, leaving researchers with a particular interest in finding functional foods that can help increase calcium absorption,' stated Connie Weaver, PhD, of Purdue University and lead researcher of the study. 'Dietary factors that enhance bone density and bone mineral content have the potential to contribute to reduced risk of bone fracture later in life.'
If the adolescents in this study had continued to consume SCF, allowing for increased calcium absorption, the researchers estimated that this would lead to additional 41.4 mg/day retained calcium and if persistent over a year would account for an additional 15.1 g of calcium, or about 1.8% of total body calcium.
'On average, people aren't meeting their fibre or calcium intake goals with the foods they currently consume. Adding fibres with functional health benefits to already consumed foods is a realistic and simple way to help address this global public health concern among key age groups,' said Michael Harrison, PhD, Senior Vice President of New Product Development at Tate & Lyle. 'Tate & Lyle has consistently shown a commitment to investing in research that leads to the production of high quality ingredients that allow people to live well and improve their health.'