RES E AR C H Open Access
CODEX-aligned dietary fiber definitions help to
bridge the ‘fiber gap’
Julie Miller Jones
A comprehensive dietary fibe r (DF) definition was adopted by the CODEX Alimentarius Commission (CAC) (1) to
reflect the current state of knowledge about DF, (2) to recognize that all substances that behave like fiber regardless
of how they are produced can be named as DF if they show physiological benefits, and (3) to promote international
harmonization for food labeling and food composition tables. This review gives the history and evolution of the state
of DF knowl edge as looked at by refinements in DF methods and definitions subsequent to the launch of the
DF hypothesis. The refinements parallel both interventional and epidemiological research leading to better
understanding of the role of DF in contributing to the numerous physiological benefits imparted by all the
various digestion resistant carbohydrates. A comparison of the CODEX definition (including its footnote that authorizes
the inclusion of polymers with DP 3–9) and approved CODEX Type 1 methods with other existing definitions and
methods will point out differences and emphasize the importance of adoption of CODEX-alig ned definiti ons by
all jurisdictions. Such harmonization enables comparison of nutrition research, recommendations, food composition
tables and nutrition labels the world over. A case will be made that fibers are analogous to vitamins , in that they
vary in structure, function and amount needed, but each when present in the right amount contributes to optimal
health. Since the intake of DF is significantly below recommended levels throughout the world, the recogni tion that
‘all fibers fit’ is an important strategy in bridgi ng the ‘fiber gap’ by enfranchising and encouraging greater intake of
foods with inherent and added DF. Fortifying foods with added DF makes it easier to increase intakes while maintaining
calories at recommended levels.
Keywords: Dietary fiber, Added fiber, CODEX fiber definitions, Fiber definitions and methods, Non-starch polysaccharide
(NSP), Fiber benefits, Resistant oligomers and resistant starch, DP 3–9
Dietary fiber’s (DF) introduction as a concept in the lat-
ter half of the last century sparked the need to define DF
and to develop a method that emulates the fate of these
digestion-resistant materials and that characterizes its
health-promoting roles. Defining DF has been both chal-
lenging and controversial for se veral reasons. First, DF
can neither be defined as a single chemical entity nor
group of related compounds. Second, different fiber
types may have one or more physiological functions or
health benefits. These may be similar or overlapping
and, in some cases, may be unique for a particular fiber
entity. Not all fibers perform all functions. So it is diffi-
cult to define it by health outcomes. Third, controversy
swirls arou nd whether DF has positive benefits only
within the food matrix or whether it functions when iso-
lated. Thus, numerous definitions have been proposed in
order to address some of these various issues.
In 2009 CODEX published its DF definition, which
resulted from nearly two decades of discussion among
scientists and delegates from member nations. CODEX’s
mission is to promote international harmonization, there-
fore it strives for a definition with worldwide acceptance
[1,2]. Since the publishing of the CODEX definition, many
countries have adopted aligned definitions [3-5]. The newly
adopted definitions will increase the need for revisions to
food composition tables and nutrition labels. Since the for-
mat and content of nutrition labels are under discussion
and in some countries have been formally proposed, it is
useful to consider labeled nutrients such as DF and to
St. Catherine University, Distinguish ed Scholar and Professor Emerita of Food
& Nutrition, 4030 Valentine Ct. Arden, Hills 55112, MN, USA
© 2014 Jones; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain
Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article,
unless otherwise stated.
Jones Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34
evaluate how differences amongst the various definitions
affect labeled values.
The effect of various definitions also needs to be
assessed in terms of the conduct and interpretation of
research and addressing the ‘fiber gap’ [6-13].
DF intake in most countries around the world is far
below recommended levels [11-13]. The gap between DF
recommendations and intakes is so extreme that the U.S.
Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) listed DF
as one of five ‘nutrients of concern’ .
All DF definitions, including the one not using the term
DF, but rather uses ‘non-starch polysaccharides’ (NSP) ,
identify DF as carbohydrate (CHO) polymers and oligomers
materials that escape digestion in the small intestine and
pass into the large intestine, where they are slightly or
nearly completely fermented. DFs per se and their fermen-
tation products contribute to the many physiological bene-
fits associated with their consumption. DF can directly
influence the colon and microbiome, and its fermentation
products can be absorbed from the large bowel to exert sys-
temic influence in various parts of the body.
This review will give a brief history of the DF research,
definitions and methods; compare and contrast the various
DF definitions to the CODEX definition; provide justifica-
tion for inclusion of DF materials that meet the definition
including those with a degree of polymerization (DP) 3–9;
underline the need for international harmonization in DF
research, food composition tables and food labeling; outline
the alarming gap between recommended and actual in-
takes; suggest that a balance of fiber types is important -
making DF analogous to vitamins; and give rationale for in-
cluding all three CODEX categories of DF - intrinsic, added
and synthesized or modified for addressing the “fiber gap”
and improving human health.
Evolution of the DF definition
In 130 A.D. the physician Galen unknowingly referred to
DF when he wrote about foods that “excite the bowels to
evacuate and those that prevent them” . He noted that
white bread is “the stickiest and slowest to pass and that
brown bread is good for the bowels”.Fromthismoment
on, the undigested material that ‘excites the bowels’ has
been associated with gut health.
In the first part of the last century, studies of non-
digestible materials in animal studies assessed their im-
pact on utilization of macronutrients , but the term
‘dietary fiber’ was not used until the 1940s . In hu-
man nutrition, the term ‘DF’ was first used in a stud y of
pregnant women where it was observed that those eating
diets high in DF had a lower incidence of toxemia .
Until the 1970s, nutrition textbooks covered DF in a
single paragraph that noted it was a CHO that resisted
digestion and improved laxation. Measurement at that
time was part of the proximate composition analysis and
was reported as crude fiber (CF). This changed with ob-
servations in the late 1960s and early 1970s by British
physicians working in rural Africa. They observed that
diseases common in the West were rare, and proposed
that the observed differences were due to the unrefined
nature of African diets. Thus , the DF hypothesis, sug-
gesting that undigested CHO could reduce chronic dis-
ease, was launched [19-21].
The search for a DF definition, methods and role
The DF hypothesis spurred a quest for methods and a
definition that would adequately characterize this mater-
ial in food and emulate conditions in the digestive tract.
It also launched many research projects looking at its
health benefits. The only existing DF method, the CF
method, was found wanting because its strong solvents
and harsh conditions failed to approximate DF’s fate in
the digestive tract [22-25].
Interest in DF’s physiological role stimulated bot h a
re-examination of older intervention studies and new re-
search, especial ly epidemiological research, which tried
to characterize the relationship of DF to various health
conditions. Existing studies, most with isolated fibers,
indicated DF’s beneficial effects on laxation, gut health,
nutrient availability, enzyme activity, and cholesterol or
atherosclerosis reduction [26-28].
Current DF definitions and methods
Table 1 gives some DF definitions from around the world
including those from CODEX, the U.S. Institute of
Medicine (IOM), Health Canada, European Food Safety
Authority (EFSA ), Food Standards Aust ralia and New
Zealand (FSANZ), a nd American Association of Cereal
Chemists International (AACCI) and fiber as described
as NSP [1,3-6,14,29].
The 2009 Codex definition resulted from a nearly two-
decade process undertaken by CODEX Alimentarius
Commission (CAC), whose mission it is to provide glo-
bal guidance and harmonization about matters regarding
food and international trade [1,2]. (Table 2 gives a brief
overview of the CAC.) The definition and its two foot-
notes read as follows:
Dietary fibre means carbohydrate polymers
or more monomeric units
, which are not hydrolysed
by the endogenous enzymes in the small intestine of
humans and belong to the following categories:
1. Edible carb ohydrate polymers naturally occurring in
the food as consumed.
2. Carbohydrate polymers, which have been obtained
from food raw material by physical, enzymatic or
Jones Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34 Page 2 of 10
Table 1 Current operative definitions for dietary fiber from around the world
CODEX Alimentarius Commission 2009 (Sets International guidance
standards for food and food imports).
•Dietary fiber means carbohydrate (CHO) polymers with ten or more
, which are not hydrolyzed by the endogenous
enzymes in the small intestine (SI) of humans and belong to the
•Edible CHO polymers naturally occurring in the food as consumed
•CHO polymers, obtained from food raw material by physical, enzymatic,
or chemical means
•Synthetic CHO polymers
The footnote allows international authorities to decide whether those
compounds with DP of 3–9 would be allowed.
For the isolated or synthetic fibers in category ‘2’ or ‘3’ , they must
show a proven physiological benefit to health as demonstrated by
generally accepted scientific evidence to competent authorities
Includes resistant oligosaccharides, resistant starch and resistant
maltodextrins when footnote 2 is included.
Health Canada (HC)2010 (A department within the Canadian government
responsible for national public health).
•Dietary Fiber Consists of naturally occurring edible carbohydrates
(DP > 2) of plant origin that are not digested and absorbed by
the small intestine and includes accepted novel dietary fibers.
•Novel Dietary fiber is an ingredient manufactured to be a source of
dietary fiber. It consists of carbohydrates (DP > 2) extracted from natural
sources or synthetically produced that are not digested by the small
It has demonstrated beneficial physiological effects in humans and it
belongs to the following categories:
•Has not traditionally been used
for human consumption to any significant extent, or
•Has been processed so as to modify the properties of the fiber, or has
been highly concentrated from a plant source
Includes resistant oligosaccharides, resistant starch and resistant
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) 2009 (The Panel on Dietetic
Products, Nutrition and Allergies develops scientific opinions on reference
values for the European Union).
•Non-digestible carbohydrates plus lignin, including all carbohydrate
components occurring in foods that are non-digestible in the
human small intestine and pass into the large intestine
Includes non-starch polysaccharides, resistant starch, resistant
Food Standards Australia and
New Zealand (FSANZ) 2001 (Responsible for development
and administration of the food standards code listing
requirements for additives, safety, labeling, and
•Dietary fiber means that fraction of the edible part of plants or
their extracts, or synthetic analogues that:
•Are resistant to digestion and absorption in the, usually with complete
or partial fermentation
in the large intestine; and
•Promote one or more of the following beneficial physiological effects:
○reduction in blood cholesterol
○modulation of blood glucose
Includes resistant polysaccharides, oligosaccharides (DP >2) and
lignins and resistant starches.
American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) 2001 (Gathers scientific
and technical data for global use by grain-industry professionals; currently
know as AACCI).
•The edible parts of plants or analogous CHOs’ that are resistant to
digestion and absorption in the human small intestine, with complete or
partial fermentation in the large intestine
•Dietary fiber includes polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, lignin, and
associated plant substances.
•Dietary fibers promote beneficial physiological effects including laxation,
and or blood cholesterol attenuation, and/or blood glucose attenuation.
Includes resistant oligosaccharides, resistant starch and resistant
Jones Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34 Page 3 of 10
chemical means and which have been shown to
have a physiological effect of benefit to health as
demonstrated by generally accepted scientific
evidence to competent authorities,
3. Synthetic carbohydrate polymers, which have been
shown to have a physiological effect of benefit to
health as demonstrated by generally accepted
scientific evidence to competent authorities.
Footnote 1 states, “when derived from a plant origin,
dietary fibre may include fractions of lignin and/or
other compounds associated with polysaccharides in
the plant cell wa lls. These compounds also may be
measured by certain analytical method(s) for
Footnote 2 states that, “Decisio n on whether to include
carbohydrates of 3 to 9 monome ric units should be left
up to national autho rities.”
The two footnotes require comment. Footnote 1 aligns
with most definitions and recognizes ‘associated sub-
stances’ and lignin when part of, but not isolated from,
the DF complex.
The CODEX definition and footnote 2
Footnote 2 allows national authorities the option of in-
cluding digestion-resistant oligomers with DP 3–9, thus
enabling different operative definitions of DF. This is
counter to CODEX’s mission, which is to facilitate inter-
national harmonization for food labeling, food compos-
ition tables, and interpretation of research. For example,
results of studies including DP 3–9 could differ from
those excluding them. DF values for foods such as
wheat and onions that contain digestion-resistant olig-
omers with DP 3–9 or r esistant starch (R S) could differ
on food labels and in food composition tables. Thus,
epidemiological research using food composition ta-
bles might also differ if some countries include these
materials and others do not.
The exclusion of resistant CHOs with DP < 10 is an
artifact of early DF methods and is not helpful for two rea-
sons. First, an initial alcohol wash elutes short-chained fi-
brous materials. The loss of this short-chain, non-digestible
material is not based on differences in physiological impact
or data showing different health outcomes, but merely dif-
ferences in solubility. Second, the alcohol separation has
been shown to lack a precise cutoff at DP = 10, and may
elute materials with DP > 10 . Thus, the arbitrary cut -
off at DP 10 does NOT have a sound basis either analytic-
ally or physiologically.
Resistant sh ort-chain oligomers (DP 3–9) should be
DF because they fit the definition in the following
ways: 1) they are neither digested nor absorbed by the
enzymes in the small intestine, 2) they are fermentable
in the large intestine, 3) t hey aid la xation in the large
bowel, and 4) they may increase mineral absorption
[30-32]. If these materials are not included as DF, they
would be ca st into a ‘no-man’sland’ of being neith er a
digestible CHO nor DF . DF experts from around
Table 1 Current operative definitions for dietary fiber from around the world (Continued)
Institute of Medicine (IOM) 2001 (U.S. and Canadian advisory organization
of the National Academy of Sciences; provides science- based research
and evidence-based analysis to improve national health).
•Dietary Fiber consists of non-digestible CHOs’ and lignin that are intrinsic
and intact in plants.
•Functional Fiber consists of isolated, non-digestible CHOs’ w/ beneficial
•Total Fiber is the sum of Dietary Fiber and Functional Fiber.
Includes resistant oligosaccharides, resistant starch and resistant
NSP Non-Starch Polysaccharides •The skeletal remains of plant cells that are resistant to digestion by
enzymes of man measured as non α-glucan polymers measured by the
Englyst (Type 2 Method).
•It includes NSP, which is comprised of cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin,
glucomannans, plant gums
and mucilages and hydrocolloids, all of which are principally found in
the plant cell wall.
Does not include oligosaccharides, resistant starch and resistant
Table 2 Codex alimentarius commission in brief
• Established in 1963 as part of the World Health Organization Food
and Agriculture Organization (WHO/FAO)
○ Covers 180 countries
○ Represents 99% of the world’s population
• Formed to set safety, quality and fairness for international food trade
○ Sets international food standards
○ Gives guidelines and codes of practice for labeling and food and
• Aims to achieve international harmonization in quality and safety
Jones Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34 Page 4 of 10
the world attending t he 2010 International Vahouny
Dietary Fiber conference voted overwhelmingly for the
inclusion of all indigest ible CH O olig omers a nd poly-
mers with DPs of 3 or higher .
In the spirit of international harmonization, many
experts recommend the acceptance of the entire
CODEX definition including footnote 2, which accepts
all digestion-resistant polymers with a DP > 3 . To
that end many jurisdictions have adopted the CODE X-
aligned definitions in its entirety. Table 3 contains a l ist
of regions that have definitions aligned w ith the entire
‘All fibers fit’
All DF definitions recognize non-digested fibrous ma-
terials inherent in food as part of the fiber complex.
Most definitions also enfranchise these non-digested
CHO materials, when they are extracted from edible
material, synthesized, or modified, IF they have at lea st
one proven health benefit.
Determination of health benefits requires consideration
of both epidemiological and intervention studies because
each study type has limitations. Intervention studies are
conducted with a specific DF (or DF blend) are usually lim-
ited in duration, have few subjects and require a measurable
disease biomarker. Subjects in the small pool may not be at
risk for the endpoint being measured. Further, the study’s
short duration or design may fail to document the impact
of DF on disease because of the inability to assess the ef-
fects of habitual intakes or to show synergies with other
dietary components [36,37]. Epidemiological studies, on the
other hand, have the advantage of huge numbers of sub-
jects with a wide range of disease susceptibility. However,
they may be subject to confounding as those with high DF
intakes frequently have a number of healthy lifestyle and
dietary patterns . Furth er, dietary intak e instruments
often fail to accurately characterize habitual diets or food
preparation effects. The analysis of epidemiological data re-
lies on food composition databases, which have not been
updated to include short-chained oligomers and RS or to
have accurate data on DF added to food [39,40].
The various definitions: similarities and differences
While the various DF definitions show many similarities,
some important differences exist (Table 1). All defini-
tions enfranchise CHO polymers that resist digestion
and absorption in the human small intestine. However,
the NSP definition only recogn izes plant cell wall fibers,
and does not include synthetic, resistant CHO polymers
or polymers extracted from raw food material by phys-
ical, enzymatic or chemical means.
The IOM definition  bears similari ty to CODEX-
aligned definitions in that it accepts that all resistant
carbohydrate materials whether intrinsic or extracted or
synthesized. However, it reserves the term ‘dietary fiber’
only for materials that are intrinsic and intact within
food. Extracted, modified or synthesized fibers are defined
as ‘functional fiber’. The sum functional and intrinsic DF is
‘total fiber’, rather than DF as in all other definitions except
the NSP definition [6,14].
While difference between the IOM and the CODE X
definition is small, it may create analytical challenges
and cause confusion for several reasons. First, the term
’DF’ is used in labeling and nutrient databases and nutri-
tion research, where fibers from foods and fibers added
to the diet are usually considered colle ctively and not
separately. Second, the two IOM categories cannot be
differentiated analytically when the food inherently con-
tains the fibe r that is being added (e.g. an oatmeal muf-
fin with added β-glucan) [24,25]. Third, not referring to
both types as DF is inconsistent with the reporting of other
nutrients in food composition tables, food labels and nutri-
ent intake surveys. For other nutrients, reported values are
the sum of that nutrient irrespective of whether it was
added or inherent. Thus, the small nuance of difference be-
tween the IOM definition and other CODEX -aligned defi-
nitions could cause unintended points of difference.
Most definitions require that at least one physiological
benefit be shown for fibers added back to food, e.g. those
fibers in CODEX categories 2 or 3. Some definitions list
specific physiological effe cts, as did all iterations of the
CODEX definition except the final one [1,3-5,24]. These
were: 1) improved intestinal transit time and increased
stool bulk; 2) fermentation by colonic microflora; 3) re-
duction in blood total and/or LDL cholesterol levels; and
4) reduction in post-prandial blood glucose and/or insu-
lin levels. Other definitions may include other physio-
logical effects [3-5,24].
Table 3 Countries adopting the CODEX with DP >3
dietary fiber definition
the definitions with DP3
definition with DP3
EFSA/European Union South Africa US FDA
Food Standards Australia and New
Chile – for labeling Chile - not for health
Jones Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34 Page 5 of 10
Most DF definitions accept Codex Footnote 1 and agree
with the inclusion of lignin and associated substances as
DF, but only when part of the native fiber complex. Some
definitions allow only CHO from plants , while others
recognize DF from animals (e.g. chitin). (Whether in-
cluded or not, such fibers are captured by current analyt-
Like the CODE X DF definition, many d efinitions in-
clude RS and resistant oligomers [1,3-5,24]. The AOAC
2009.01 (A ACCI 32–45), a CODE X Ty pe 1 method, best
matches the CODEX definition and captures these
digestion-resistant entities [2,39-43]. However, many food
databases report values obtained using older methods. The
NSP definition and method (not a Type 1 method) fail to
capture resistant oligomers or RS [14,44]. (Note: The CAC
strives to have a single Type 1 method with the imprimatur
of AOAC International and the AACCI because of the
rigorous collaborative testing in labs around the world
prove them to be both rugged and reproducible. The NSP
method is defined by CODEX as an empirical method, ra-
ther than a rationale method, and does not get full CODEX
imprimatur as the method of choice).
DF intake recommendations for adults range from 18–
38 g/d [3-6,45-48] (Table 4). WHO/FAO and EFSA rec-
ommend 25 g/d with their recommendations based on
amounts needed for healthy laxation [5,46]. Some coun-
tries such as Singapore, the U.S. and Canada tie DF re-
quirements to caloric intake, so recommended amounts
for men , women and elderly vary. Thus, recommended
levels are 25 g/d for women and 38 g/d for men in the
U.S. and Canada. These are among the highest recom-
mended levels not only because they are tied to calories,
but also because they are based on the median intake as-
sociated with the lowest risk of coronary disea se in pro-
spective cohort studies . The 18 g/d recommended
by the UK Food Standards Agency is lower than most
other recommendatio ns and reflects the use of NSP def-
inition and methods rather than the CODEX definition
and method . This is an example where confusion is
caused by different jurisdictions using non- CODEX
aligned definitions and methods .
There is a concerning gap between recommendations
and intake worldwide [11-13,49]. For example in North
which means that those in the lowest quintiles of intake
ingest below half the re commended levels [50-52].
Evaluation of NH ANE S 2003–2006 data show that
under 5% of the US population ingests the re com-
mended intake [11,12].
A few initiatives have been successful in reducing the
DF gap, such as programs from the Grains & Legumes
Nutrition Council (formerly GoGrains) in Australia and
New Zealand . However, in most countries intake
has not increased, despite a consistent body of evidence
associating DF with reduced health risks [54-64] and
messages from health promotion organizations to in-
crease DF intake for both prevention and management
of disease [13,65-67]. Food intake surveys in the U.S.
show that intake has remained roughly the same for over
nearly two decades [11,12,50]. The DF gap even occurs
in children in many countries and manifests itself as
chronic constipation [68,69]. Inadequate intake of DF in
childhood is thought to be associated with health risks
including obesity in later life .
“All fibers fit” to address the fiber gap
Adoption of CODE X-aligned definitions provides a strat-
egy to help address the fiber gap by acknowledging the
role of both intrinsic and added fibers. The ‘all fibers fit’
mantra means that healthy diets include the various fiber
types . Constructing a diet with a balance of DF
types is analogous to constructing a diet with the correct
amount and balance of the vitamins needed for optimal
health. The similarities are outlined as follows. First,
vitamin requirements are fulfilled only when all vitamins
are present both in quantity and type. In like manner for
DF, the optimal diet would have both right quantity of
total DF and balance of fiber types. Second, vitamins in-
herently in food and those added through fortification
and enrichment can work together to fulfill the re-
quirements [71,72]. The same can apply to DF in that
Table 4 Adult fiber recommendations and average
intakes in selected countries
Body issuing the
Males 38 16.5-19.4 North America – Jointly
use the IOM report
from the National
Academy of Sciences
Females 25 12-15
France Males 30 21 Agence française de
sécurité sanitaire des
aliments (French food
Females 25 17
Germany Males 30 24 German Nutrition
Females 30 21
Japan Males 30 17 Japanese Ministry
Females 25 17
UK Males 18* 15.2 UK Department of
Females 18* 12.6
*Lower requirements due to use of the NSP method.
Jones Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34 Page 6 of 10
added fibers can interact with intrinsic fibers to meet
the requirement act synergistically actually to reap
Variety is one of the important concepts of healthy diets.
Just as a balanced diet incorporates adequate amounts of
each vitamin and avoids excesses of any one kind, an opti-
mal diet should incorporate the right amount and balance
of fiber different types needed to perform DFs’ many func-
tions. Thus a varied diet that uses fiber-fortified foods to-
gether with fiber-rich foods has multiple benefits. It ensures
inclusion of associated substances that are trapped in the
DF matrix of natural foods, allows health benefits from the
synergy of DF types and functions, and the fiber gap while
staying within a day’s calorie allotment.
Efforts to increase the intake of fiber-rich foods - whole
grain breads and cereals or pseudocereals (wheat, maize,
oats, rye, barley, triticale, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, etc.),
legumes and soy, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds - must
continue. While diets constructed using USDA MyPlate
and DGAC recommendations can attain DF levels as high
as 50 g/d with the selection of high-fiber options within
and among the food groups (Table 5), analysis of food con-
sumption data show that most consumers chose low-fiber
foods frequently. Since a serving of many common foods
provides 1–3 g of DF, individuals eating according to the
MyPlate guidelines could ingest on average 20–24 g/d, but
mightingestaslittleas12–15 g/d. However, only 3-8% of
the US population eats according to USDA MyPlate, and
the fiber-containing food groups are most frequently omit-
NH ANES data from 2001–2004 document that under
5% of consumers in most age and gender categories
meet the adequate intake (AI) for fiber . Less than
10% of the population meets the whole grain recommen-
dation [80,81]. Fruit and vegetable intakes are about half
that recommended, and again the higher-fiber choices
within each groups are selected less frequently . Per
capita consumption of legumes is extremely low at 25 g/d
(0.1 cup/d or 20 calories/day) .
Addressing the ‘fiber gap’ not only requires a continu-
ing push towards greater intake of fiber-rich foods and
the use of more foods with added fibers , but also needs
to include consumer education about fiber sources. Sur-
veys show that consumers are looking for more DF, but
also reveal that they have difficulty choosing foods or
groups of foods that are DF sources, identifying isolated
fibers on the ingredient statement, or estimating the DF
content of foods and diets [82-84].
Statements by some health professionals and in cor-
porate adve rtising campaigns suggest that added fibers
are ‘fake’, and that only foods with natural fiber can
fulfill DF requirements. While it is true that added fi-
bers may not carry all the ‘c o-pa ssengers’ found in
the food fiber matrix , i solated fibers do show docu-
mented health benef it s . In fact these benefits are
so well documented that many countries allow health
claims for isolated fibers such as wheat bran and β-glucan
and its derivatives. In some cases isolated fibers and their
derivatives are more concentrated both in terms of DF
and trapped co-passengers enabling intake of a smaller
amount of food for an equivalent physiological dose than
would required from the whole food. For example, the
addition of oat bran and β-glucan to a serving of oatmeal
yields a cholesterol-lowering dose of DF with half the
calories of an equivalent dose of oatmeal without
added DF .
The synergy of fiber inherent i n foods and that added
to foods has been documented and needs t o be empha-
sized [87-89]. For example, a meta-analysis of inter-
vention studies suggests that type 2 diabetes risk
reduction is reached either with isolated fiber or with
DF from whole foods . Improved blood lipids and
Table 5 High, low and average DF for consumers meeting myplate servings
Average and range of fiber content Diets daily totals of diets constituted with
Food group Recommended
(2000 cal diet)
food in the
per food in
Total fiber per
with foods choices
with low fiber
Total fiber per
with foods choices
with average fiber
Total fiber per
MyPlate category with
foods choices with
average fiber content + 1
Vegetables 5 ½ cup 2.5 1 6 5 12.5 18
Fruit 3 ½ cup 2.5 1 5 3 7.5 12
Protein 5.5 oz <1 0 8 0 0 8
Milk 3 cup 0 0 1 0 0 1
Whole grain 3-1 oz equiv 2.5 1 11 3 8 17
Refined grain 3 1-oz equiv 1.5 <1 3 3 3 3
Totals 14 31 59
Jones Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34 Page 7 of 10
weight management was shown to occur with isolated
fiber added to a diet with a baseline of 20 g of DF. Dis-
counting of the c ontribution of added fib ers be cause of
their l ack of epidemiological evidence fails to consider
studies such a s this cited meta-analysis .
Teasing out the effects of isolated DFs from epidemio-
logical studies is methodologically challenging because
food databases used in the analysis of food frequency
only report total DF and do not attribute DF source.
Thus health impacts of added fibers may be not be
captured. Further, food composition data may not re-
flect added fibers especially those that are short-chain
oligomers and resistan t starch, so their prese nce may
be underestimated . Thus , epidemiological studies
attribute all he alth benefits to DF that are inherent in
foods and fail to recognize t he contribution of added
fiber or its synergy in impacting health and disease.
However, data from intervention studies clearly show
that increases in total DF intake through fibers added
to a baseline of diet rich in whole grains, fruits and
vegetables, legumes and other fiber-rich foods syner-
gistically improves health outcomes over those observed
with lower fiber intakes [87-89].
Worldwide there is a ‘fiber gap’ because intake is far
below the recommendations. The gap is so extreme that
the 2010 U.S. DGAC followed previous committees in
naming DF as one of five ‘nutrients of concern’. Less
than one in ten Americans meets the fiber requirement.
The new CODEX definition en franchising added fibers
along with fibers traditionally found in food underscores
the need for all types of fibers – those which naturally
occur in vegetables, fruits, whole grains , nuts, seeds and
legumes and those that are isolated or synthesized and
added to foods - as part of a strategy to address the in-
adequate intake of DF. The new definition reflects ad-
vances in the knowledge of dietary fiber types and roles
and shows that all CHOs with DP > 3 that resist diges-
tion and that have a beneficia l physiological effect are
included and include them even though certain earlier
methods did not necessarily capture these materia ls. Ac-
ceptance as a DF is based on proof of a physiological
With CODEX-aligned definitions across jurisdictions,
the development of great-tasting, high-fiber foods by the
food industry is facilitated. Consumer education pro-
grams can heighten awareness of the ‘fiber gap’ and sug-
gest workable dietary strategies to address the problem.
This can include programs that help consumers identify
isolated DFs, choose foods naturally rich in fiber, and
model diets which achieve fiber recommendations with
a combination of foods naturally high in fiber and those
with added fiber. Such models can show consumers how
to increase fiber intake while helping consumers to stay
within their calorie budget and encourage them to act
on the princ iple laid out in the CODEX definition that
‘all fibers fit’.
In summary, adopt ion of CODEX-aligned definitions
and approved methods, which include resistant oligo-
mers DP 3–9 (included in Footnote 2) and resistant
starches, is needed in all jurisdictions because such an
action recognizes the current state of fiber research and
methodology, facilitates the conduct of nutrition re-
search that is comparable, harmonizes nutrition labeling
and food composition tables, and provides a platform to
educate consumers about the benefits of dietary fiber
and risks of not choosing it. A single voice with consist-
ent messaging about the benefits of DF can help con -
sumers build diets that will meet intake goals to address
the ‘fiber gap’ and reap the benefits of diets that have in-
AACCI: American Association of Cereal Chemists International;
AOAC: Association of Analytical Chemists; CAC CODEX: Alimentarius
Commission; CF: Crude fiber; CHO: Carbohydrate; DF: Dietary fiber;
DGAC: Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee; DP: Degree of polymerization;
EFSA: European Food Safety Authority; FAO: Food and Agriculture
Organization; FSANZ: Food Standards Australia and New Zealand; FDA: US
Food and Drug Administration; ILSI: International Life Sciences Institute;
IOM: Institute of Medicine; NSP: Non-starch polysaccharides; RS: Resistant
starch; WHO: World Health Organization.
Funds to help with the preparation of this manuscript were given by the
Calorie Control Council. In the past 5 years, I have given speeches and
written articles where travel grants and honoraria are received from the food
industry some of which produce or use whole grains and fibers such as
ADM, Beneo, Campbell Soup Company, Ingredion, Kraft Foods, Proctor &
Gamble, Tate & Lyle and Uncle Ben ’s. I am a scientific advisor to the
carbohydrate committee of the International Life Sciences Institute – North
America, the WK Kellogg Corporation, the Quaker Oats Company, the Joint
Institute of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the University of Maryland
and the US Food and Drug Administration.
I have worked on the AACCI committee looking at the dietary fiber
definition. I was part of an ILSI team presenting at the Vahouny Dietary
Fiber conference. I have done much work in the area of carbohydrate
nutrition, resistant starch, sugars, whole grains and dietary fiber. I presented
at a symposium prior to a CODEX meeting on definitions and methods for
The work was sponsored by the Calorie Control Council.
Received: 7 January 2014 Accepted: 31 March 2014
Published: 12 April 2014
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Cite this article as: Jones: CODEX-aligned dietary fiber definitions help
to bridge the ‘fiber gap’. Nutrition Journal 2014 13:34.
Jones Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:34 Page 10 of 10