Skip that spoonful of fiber

It’s not something most people dwell on, but I spend a lot of time thinking about dietary fiber. More specifically, I often wonder whether the very high quantities so many “experts” recommend are really necessary. And I have to say—I don’t think so.

You see, needing a ton of fiber in one’s diet is one of those myths that started harmlessly and then took on a life all its own.

It came about when one researcher discovered a tribe in Africa whose diet was very high in fiber and they had no colon cancer. The powers-that-be then decided that dietary fiber is the cure for colon cancer—without a shred of evidence. And that became the law of the land.

Scientific studies have gone on to disprove this theory time and time again, yet this myth still prevails (sort of like the similarly destructive one that eggs are bad for you).

That said, fiber does play an important role in health. In fact, a new study shows that one specific type of fiber may even help you lose weight.

Researchers from the Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow compared the impacts of supplementation with a type of dietary fiber called inulin with another type called “inulin-propionate ester” (or IPE). Propionate is a healthy bacteria prebiotic generated naturally in the body when gut microbes ferment dietary fiber. IPE is a new supplement that provides more propionate than you could get from diet alone.

And, according to this new study, IPE helps stimulate the release of hormones in the gut that reduce hunger.

First, the participants were given inulin or IPE and then were set loose on a buffet and allowed to eat whatever they wanted. The IPE group ate 14 percent less than the inulin group. Subsequently, researchers found they had higher levels of appetite-reducing hormones in their blood.

In a second phase of this study, researchers followed up with after 24 weeks. Participants who had been taking the IPE had less fat in their abdomens and livers compared to the inulin group. This is a major score for IPE, since belly fat and fatty liver are two major risk factors for a number of potentially deadly conditions.

What I find most fascinating about this research is how IPE interacts with gut flora—and the effects that relationship has on obesity. Obviously, IPE is still very new…but these study results are promising, and I have a hunch this may be the Next Big Thing when it comes to weight-loss supplements.

I’ll keep you posted about the latest developments on IPE as they come out. ‘Til then, your (simple) job is to skip that powdered fiber you get at the grocery store (and quit doing a “gram count” of how much dietary fiber you eat every day), and take probiotics instead. They aren’t just good for your digestion, but, as I’ve said before, are also terrific for your brain, not to mention a boon for weight loss.

Just make sure to abide by my probiotic golden rule: Quality beats quantity. Avoid probiotics that boast enormous quantities of just one or two strains and look for one with a wide variety of bacteria.


“Effects of targeted delivery of propionate to the human colon on appetite regulation, body weight maintenance and adiposity in overweight adults.” Gut, epub ahead of print 12/10/14

“Scientists create ‘feel fuller’ food ingredient,” Reuters Health News, 12/10/14