The present paper suggests some basic criteria and considerations for the identification and characterization of DF and DF-containing test foods in nutrition research, and standards for reporting these in the professional literature.
Dietary fiber (DF) comprises a wide range of naturally-occurring and modified materials with substantial variation in physical and chemical properties and potential physiological effects. While nutrition studies testing the effects of DF usually provide extensive detail on the physiological responses, many still fail to adequately report the type and properties of the DF itself. This weakens the ability to directly replicate and compare studies, and to establish structure-function relationships. We outline the factors that impact DF functionality and give four overarching recommendations for the characterization and reporting of DF preparations and DF-containing foods in nutrition research. These relate to: 1) undertaking characterization methods that reflect the study hypothesis, 2) adequate reporting of DF source, quantity and composition, 3) measurement of DF rheological properties and 4) estimating the DF fermentation rate and extent. Importantly, the food matrix of the test products should also be considered, as this can influence DF functionality and hence the apparent DF efficacy for health-relevant outcomes. Finally, we point out differences in DF functionality to be considered in acute and longer-term trials, the need to design the control treatment according to the research question, and the importance of reporting the amount and type of DF in the background diet.
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