Choosing Wheat Bran to Improve Digestive Health
Intakes of dietary fibre are reported to have fallen across the Arab Gulf in recent years.1 One consequence of a low fibre intake is poor digestive health, which often results in symptoms such as abdominal discomfort and constipation. Chronic constipation is a common functional gastrointestinal symptom affecting as many as one in five people in Western countries.2 The good news is that simple dietary changes can quickly reduce the symptoms of poor digestive health. This article outlines the evidence and practical ways to increase intake of dietary fibre.
Little data is available on the incidence of constipation among populations in the Arab Gulf, however self-reported incidence of constipation among Qatari women is as high as 54%.3 In Bahrain, adult intakes of fibre are reported to be less than half of the 25- 33g/day recommended in the USA,4 and children and young people consume on average just 13g fibre, again below the USA age specific recommendations.5 In Kuwait, one in three adults and only one in five children consume a recommended intake of fibre.6 What is clear is that low fibre intakes appear to be common across the region and likely to be resulting in preventable symptoms of poor digestive health. Recommended fibre intakes around the globe range from 25g (based on preventing constipation),7 to between 30g-40g each day, (reflecting the contribution of fibre to optimal wellbeing - including prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease).8,9,10
Fibre intakes in the Arab Gulf fall short of the level needed to promote digestive wellbeing, and far short of recommendations for optimal wellbeing. Most adults in the region need to double their daily fibre intake.5,7,11,12,13
Fibre affects more than digestive health
Abdominal discomfort, with or without constipation, is known to negatively affect general wellbeing and quality of life.14 Digestive problems have also been linked to higher stress levels, lethargy, low mood and decreased wellbeing.11 Increasing fibre, and particularly wheat bran intake for all generations potentially holds benefits beyond digestive health alone.
Wheat bran – the fibre of choice?
Increasing fibre intake underpins lifestyle advice for individuals with symptoms of digestive discomfort.15 Wheat bran has been shown to be an effective fibre to reverse the digestive consequences of poor fibre intakes by speeding up the transit of food through the intestinal tract and reducing symptoms of discomfort associated with irregularity.16 Ideally aim for 10g wheat bran fibre each day, but studies suggest that lower intakes will also begin to reduce symptoms of a sluggish digestion.17,18
Wheat bran can be found in any foods made using the entire wheat grain, this includes wholemeal flour, breakfast cereals and any foods made from this such as breads or bakery products. White bread and bakery products are made with refined flour where the outer bran layers, and much of the fibre, have been removed. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are rich in wheat bran, like All-Bran, offer an easy source of fibre which can be enjoyed by all members of the family either at the breakfast meal or as a snack. In addition to convenience, these also offer the advantage of providing a range of essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, B vitamins such as folic acid, and iron.
- Many people living in the Arab Gulf need to double their daily fibre intake to achieve optimal health and improve digestive health.
- One of the most effective ways to achieve this increase would be to consume foods rich in wheat bran.
- Wheat bran rich ready-to-eat cereals, like All-Bran offer a quick and nutrient dense way to boost wheat bran intake.
Simple steps to boost wheat bran:
- For a simple breakfast – choose a readyto- eat breakfast cereal that is high in wheat bran, like All-Bran. Serve with either yoghurt or milk and top with chopped fresh fruit
- Switch to wholemeal pitta or flat breads
- Select whole wheat to prepare wheat based dishes such as Harees
- Top yoghurt with chopped dates and crushed Kellogg’s All-Bran Flakes for a sweet treat
- Crush 2 tablespoons of Kellogg’s All-Bran Plus and add to minced lamb before cooking, or to dishes based on chick peas or beans to provide hidden fibre boost.
- Musaiger AO (2011) Food Consumption Patterns in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. First Edition, 2011 Arab Center for Nutrition. Manama-Bahrain.
- World Gastroenterology Organisation (2013) Coping with common GI symptoms in the community. A global perspective on heartburn, constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain/discomfort. Available at www.worldgastroenterology.org
- Bener A et al (2013) Somatic symptoms in primary care and psychological comorbidities in Qatar: Neglected burden of disease Int Rev Psych 25: 100-106
- Kingdom of Bahrain Ministry of Health (2002) National Nutrition Survey For Adult Bahrainis Aged 19 Years And Above. Accessed on line August 2014 at: http://www.moh.gov.bh/PDF/survey/nut_survey1.pdf
- Musaiger AO (2011) The paradox of Nutrition-related diseases in the Arab countries: the need for action. Int J Environ Res Public Health 8: 3637-3671
- Zaghloul S et al (2013) Evidence for nutrition transition in Kuwait: over-consumption of macronutrients and obesity. Public Health Nutr 16: 596-607
- EFSA (2010) Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for carbohydrates and dietary fibre. EFSA Journal 2010; 8(3):1462
- SACN (2015) Carbohydrates and Health. TSO London.
- USDA (2015) Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. See www.dietaryguidelines.giv
- Nordic Council of Ministers (2012) Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012. See www.norden.org
- Gharib N, Rasheed P (2011) Energy and macronutrient intake and dietary pattern among school children in Bahrain: a cross-sectional study. Nutr J 10: 62
- Alsufiani M et al (2012) Dietary patterns, nutrient intakes, and nutritional and physical activity status of saudi older adults: a narrative review. J Ageing Res & Clin Prac http://www.jarcp.com/877-dietarypatterns- nutrient-intakes-and-nutritional-and-physical-activity-status-of-saudi-older-adults-a-narrative-review.html
- Habiba AI et al (2013) Diet and Carbohydrate Food Knowledge of Multi-Ethnic Women: A Comparative Analysis of Pregnant Women with and without Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. PLoS One. 2013; 8(9): e73486.
- O’Sullivan K (2012) The superior benefits of wheat bran fibre in digestive health. European Gastroenterology & Hepatology Review 8: 3-6
- Tursi A, Papagrigoriadis S (2009) Review article: the current and evolving treatment of diverticular disease. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 30:532-546
- EFSA Journal 2010;8(10):1817. [18 pp.].
- Jenkins DJ et al (1987) Wheat fibre and laxation: dose response and equilibrium time. Am J Gastroenterol 82: 1259-1263
- Lawton CL et al. (2013). Short term (14 days) consumption of insoluble wheat bran ¬fibre-containing breakfast cereals improves subjective digestive feelings, general wellbeing and bowel function in a dose dependent manner. Nutrients 5: 1436-1455.