Purdue University Explores Role of Whole-Food Dietary Fiber in Promoting Beneficial Gut Microbes

by Ella

Dietary fiber, an essential component often overlooked in modern diets, is gaining renewed attention for its potential to promote gut health and combat metabolic diseases. With Americans consuming only about half of the recommended daily fiber intake, researchers at Purdue University are investigating the benefits of incorporating whole-food dietary fiber into daily nutrition.

Led by Bruce Hamaker, Distinguished Professor of Food Science at Purdue, and Thaisa Cantu-Jungles, research assistant professor of food science, the project delves into the comparative effects of whole-food fibers versus commonly used alternatives such as inulin, a soluble fiber often found in processed foods. Their research, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, aims to elucidate the impact of dietary fiber on gut microbiota composition and overall gut health.


According to Hamaker, “There’s a public health need to increase dietary fiber intake.” Traditionally sourced from plant-based foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables, dietary fiber plays a crucial role in supporting gut microbial diversity and maintaining intestinal barrier function. However, the production of processed foods often involves the removal of natural fiber content, leading to the substitution of less beneficial alternatives like inulin.


“While inulin is commonly added to processed foods as a fiber source, it may not effectively support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria,” explains Cantu-Jungles. “Our study aims to compare the gut-health impact of whole-food fibers with that of inulin, focusing on their ability to promote the growth of Clostridia bacteria, which are associated with anti-inflammatory health outcomes.”


The research project involves a comprehensive assessment of dietary fiber’s effects on gut health, including laboratory experiments and a clinical study involving overweight prediabetic individuals. Blood and stool samples collected during the clinical study will be analyzed to evaluate markers of systemic inflammation, gut bacterial community shifts, and metabolites from bacterial utilization of fiber.


Through their investigation, Hamaker and Cantu-Jungles seek to determine whether whole-food dietary fibers play a critical role in supporting beneficial gut microbes, ultimately contributing to improved metabolic health. “Our goal is to promote a better understanding of how dietary choices impact gut microbiota composition and overall health outcomes,” says Cantu-Jungles.



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