Artificial Colors, Flavors, Sweeteners: The Fiber Connection
I have explained the differences between “Drug Store” vitamins and “Health Food” vitamins in the past, both in articles and on over the air when we were still broadcasting our radio program, The Willner Window. Some of that information bears repeating, as it pertains to many products, not just vitamins.
Fiber supplements is a good example. A recent article by Jane Brody, in the New York Times brought this category to mind. Fiber supplements can be very helpful in preventing and treating many types of health problems. Here are some examples:
- Heart Health (High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure)
“Soluble fiber, such as psyllium husks, oat bran and gums, provide benefits for heart health. Numerous double-blind studies and epidemiological surveys have shown that dietary fiber has normalizing effects on cholesterol and blood lipids, with benefits for heart health. As Kinosian and Eisenberg wrote many years ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “A broad public health approach to lowered cholesterol levels by additional dietary modification, such as with soluble fiber, may be preferred to a medically oriented campaign that focuses on drug therapy.” (JAMA, 1988; 259(15):2249-54)”
- Regularity (Constipation and Diarrhea)
“Everyone” knows that fiber helps promote regularity and can help reduce the overuse of stimulant laxatives, but not enough people act on that knowledge. Dietary fiber, especially psyllium husk fiber, is a gentle long-term solution for constipation. Easier elimination is one of those little things in life that can make a huge difference in quality of life for both the elderly and the young. Dietary fiber even improves the tone of the muscles that surround the colon and provide the action of peristalsis. Better muscle tone helps people get off the stimulant laxative habit and promotes regularity for a lifetime.
Regularity means not only lack of constipation but also fewer issues with loose stools. Many doctors now recommend psyllium husk fiber for people who have loose stools because psyllium husks act as a bowel normalizer. With regular use, psyllium husks absorb excess water in the colon and help bring bowel movements back to normal.”
- Diabetes (Blood Sugar Control)
“Dietary fiber helps to maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range. Many people are concerned with maintaining a healthy blood sugar balance without the up and down spikes in blood sugar that stress the body. Consuming more bulking fiber slows the passage of food through the small intestine, where sugars and carbohydrates are digested. This normalizes digestive function and reduces blood sugar spikes.”
- Overweight (Weight Loss)
“Dietary fiber plays an important role in weight maintenance. High fiber foods help promote satiety, or a feeling of fullness. Fiber supplements can also provide this benefit when taken a few minutes before a meal or with food. Because fiber improves the digestion of food and reduces sugar ups and downs, it makes people less likely to feel hungry between meals. Thus, fiber supplements can be a powerful tool for helping people to lose weight or maintain weight.”
- Colon and Digestive Health
“Dietary fiber supports colon health in numerous ways. The bulking activity of fiber absorbs excess bile acids, speeds transit time through the colon and holds potential toxins in suspension, minimizing the opportunity for harm. Soluble fiber and nutrients like FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) promote the growth of beneficial probiotics that improve digestion of nutrients, acidify the colon, ease elimination and protect the lining of the colon.
Numerous studies have shown that soluble fiber, especially psyllium husk fiber, normalizes the bowel and makes life much easier for people with digestive upset.”
There are different types of fiber–soluble fiber (such as psyllium, oat bran, FOS, gums, etc) and insoluble fiber (wheat bran). Talk to the pharmacists and nutritionists at Willner Chemists for guidance on which type is best for you. The purpose of this article is to explore the differences between fiber supplements you can buy in the mass market (drug stores, grocery stores, etc) and those that are sold in health food stores, nutritionally oriented pharmacies, etc.
There is an important difference. Let’s look first at the ingredient listings from severl products I examined in mass market retailers.
(1) Meta Mucil “100% Natural Psyllium Husk” Daily Fiber Supplement, Sugar-Free, Berry Smooth. Ingredients: Psyllium Husk, Maltodextrin, Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Acesulfame Potassium, Aspartame, Red 40, Blue 1.
(2) Member’s Mark (Sam’s Club): Fiber Powder, 100% Nastural Psyllium Husk, Sugar Free, Orange Smooth.
Ingredients: Psyllium Husk, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Orange Flavor, Silica, Aspartame, FDC Yellow 6.
(3) Kirkland (Costco): Natural Psyllium Fiber, 100% Natural Psyllium Husk Fiber, Smooth Texture, Sugar Free, Natural and Artificial Orange Flavor.
Ingredients: Psyllium Husk, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Orange Flavor, Aspartame, Silicon Dioxide, Sucralose, FDC Yellow #6.
Please note the following: First, all of these products contain artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners–aspartame, acesulfame--and artificial colors–Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 6. (In all fairness, they probably have non sugar free versions with sugar rather than artificial sweeteners. Second, I will point out that I strongly suspect that many people see the large print “Natural” and “100% Natural Psyllium Husk Fiber,” and mistakenly think that the product is “natural”–which is obviously not the case.
Now, let’s look at the ingredient statement on a similar product sold in health food stores and nutritionally oriented pharmacies. I am going to use Yerba Prima as an example. Yerba Prima is a well established company specializing in fiber supplements, among other products. We can start with their “Psyllium Husk Powder.”
(1) Yerba Prima Psyllium Husk Powder.
Ingredients: Psyllium husks.
(Willner Product Code: 12118 http://www.www.emailbliss.com/products.aspx?pid=12118
Yep. That’s it. No fillers, no maltodextrin, citric acid, silica, etc. No sweeteners–sugar or artificial sweeteners. No flavors–natural or artificial. No artificial colors and dyes. Just pure, pysllium husk fiber. Now certainly, you probably will not want to just mix this with water and slug it down like you can with the above products. It certainly will not taste as good, and look as colorful! But what’s wrong with mixing it with juice–“Juice, water, soy or rice drink, and milk are all good with Psyllium Husks Powder,” acording to Yerba Prima. At least you have a choice.
(2) Yerba Prima also has a product containing a mixture of several types of fiber. I’ve mentioned it in the past–Daily Fiber Formula. Here is the ingredient statement for this product:
Ingredients: Psyllium seed husks, oat bran, acacia gum, soy fiber (non-GMO), apple fiber. Note: The carbohydrate in this product is primarily non-digestible fiber; digestible carbohydrate is only 1/2 gram per serving.
(Willner Product Code: 12100) http://www.www.emailbliss.com’products.aspx?pid=12100
Now, to be fair, let’s look at the ingredients in a “sugar-free,” flavored version of a daily fiber powder supplement from Yerba Prima, and compare this to the mass market products listed above:
(3) Daily Fiber? Formula, Orange Flavor
Ingredients: Psyllium seed husks, acacia gum, Gluten Free oat bran, Non-GMO soy fiber, apple fiber, natural tropical orange flavor, citric acid, stevia extract, annatto-turmeric color.
(Willner Product Code: 18630) http://www.www.emailbliss.com/products.aspx?pid=18630
Interesting, isn’t it? Note that there are still no artificial colors–instead, they use natural color. Also note that instead of artificial sweeteners, they use stevia, and natural sweetener. And, instead of artificial flavoring, they use only a natural orange flavor.
Enough said, I hope. I hope we will see you at Willner Chemists, where we will be happy to discuss the various types of fiber supplements, and show you a selection of those products that are best suited to your needs, from any of numerous product lines we carry.
A link to all of the Yerba Prima products