Interaction of Dietary Fiber with Lipids — Mechanistic Theories and their Limitations

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Abstract

It is now well established that dietary fiber is not an inert entity. On the contrary, it can effectively interact with other food components, whether they are macro or micro nutrients. Among the macronutrients, dietary lipids have been studied most extensively in conjunction with dietary fiber. The inclusion of dietary fiber in diet not only displaces lipids, but it also frequently alters or diminishes their physiological and nutritional contributions. This is usually demonstrated in reduced calorie density of the diet, in reduction of blood and hepatic lipids, and in alteration and output of fecal lipids. These changes are of a major significance since they are believed to be beneficial in preventing or reducing serious diseases which include obesity, coronary heart disease as well as certain types of cancer. In order to explain these changes, it is important to understand the interactions and reactions between different dietary fibers and lipids on the molecular basis. Although a number of excellent theories on how dietary fiber reacts or interacts with dietary lipids and how the hypolipidemic effects are achieved have been proposed, our understanding of the mechanism of these interactions is still unsatisfactory. The main reason for this lies in great chemical diversity of existing dietary fibers, and to a lesser degree of lipids, and in extreme difficulty to monitor the reactions which take place in the intestine and in the other parts of the human body. It is likely that better physicochemical characterization of dietary fibers and lipids and correlation of these attributes with corresponding physiological effects will inevitably improve our understanding of these vital interactions.