Your Facebook questions answered: Is VitaFiber too good to be true?

 

“I have a question for you about something a co-worker of mine just ordered on Amazon. It’s called VitaFiber. Are you aware of it? It sounds too good to be true, so I told him I’d ask you about it & see what you thought.”, says Enlightened Eater Facebook fan, Alison Smiley.

Alison, something that sounds too good to be true usually is.

There is no doubt that we don’t consume enough fibre – about half of the recommended 25 to 30 grams a day. The short term effects tend to be of the gastrointestinal variety with constipation being a very common consequence.

When you look at the long term  health benefits of fibre, such as a reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease, it’s key to distinguish between intact fibres, those found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and functional or isolated fibres.

These are certain indigestible carbohydrates that may be found in supplements or added to foods to boost their fibre counts. The research, though, is not clear how much of fibre’s defense against diseases is due to the whole food and its components such as antioxidants and other healthful components versus the fibre alone.

That’s where clinical research comes in. These types of studies examine the ingredient or compound (in this case, VitaFiber) in subjects compared to those participants receiving a placebo.  When you look at this kind of research, you need to consider factors such as the number of subjects, the length of the trial and what outcome is being looked at.

So how does VitaFiber’s scientific research rate?

Firstly, the website states VitaFiber is the following, based on scientific studies:

•    A dietary fiber
•    A prebiotic
•    Improves overall gastrointestinal health
•    A low calorie health sweetener

It also says ”the following claims are supported by some scientific studies and further studies are in progress:

•    Maintain healthy cholesterol levels
•    Maintain healthy blood sugar levels
•    Has a low Glycemic Index (GI)
•    Helps in minerals absorption
•    Least flatulence in comparison to inulin and FOS

But when you click on the studies and check the dates of the research, most  go back a decade or two.  The “Table Summary of Published Clinical Studies” has a list of investigations assessing the tolerance in subjects going back as far as 1988 and the most recent over a decade ago – in 2004.  It is not even clear where these studies were published. One so-called tolerance study was a single dose  involving 9 healthy males and 29 females.

Give me a break.

Click on the “Latest Scientific Studies”, and you’ll see just one study listed involving rats.

There may indeed be health benefits associated with this product but to be honest, I am shocked at the kind of evidence they’re presenting to potential buyers.  It is simply insulting. If you’re going to present scientific evidence, make it current and meaningful.

It is a Canadian product, but I would look elsewhere if I wanted to reap these kinds of benefits. I do believe that fibre supplements, for some people, do offer advantages but they also supply better science to support their use.

Another Canadian-grown option is flaxseed and it’s one with plenty of current research that has been published in respected scientific journals. The latest study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, involved 58 post-menopausal obese women who were given flaxseed, a probiotic or a placebo for 6 weeks. The flaxseed came out the clear winner in promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut while at the same time, improving insulin sensitivity. A lack of insulin sensitivity is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Flaxseed offers a host of other health benefits, including blood sugar and blood cholesterol perks along with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects,  so for my money, I’d go this route rather than the VitaFiber.

What’s your take on fibre supplements? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Rosie's Rants, Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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4 Comments on “Your Facebook questions answered: Is VitaFiber too good to be true?”

  1. Paula
    July 9, 2015 at 6:07 am #

    Thank you Rosie -I am not a supplement fan at all -and have been eating ground flaxseed (a few tablespoons in cereal, yogurt etc ) at least once daily for about 15 years………still healthy and heading for 60!!

  2. July 9, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    Keep it up, Paula! Flaxseed is definitely a Canadian wonder food!

  3. Steve
    August 21, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    I feel like you didn’t say anything. I feel like you didn’t present any facts as to why it’s not healthy. You just merely stated that you had reason to be suspicious. How about you find some contradictory evidence? Oh the studies are old? Well are people still performing studies to question the rate of gravity? Or are we just satisfied with the previous research? Does a lack of current research affect the validity of previous research?

    • August 25, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

      Steve, I didn’t say that the product was not healthy. But what I did comment on were the claims made by the seller. If they are making claims to sell a product (which is not cheap), I think that the buyer deserves current valid research that backs up the claims. But even if the research is not current, as I stated in the post, it wasn’t even clear where these studies were published or if they even had been published at all. As a result, I think there are better options to consider when looking for a fibre supplement.

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