CSIRO experts recommend new preventative steps for Australian digestive health

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st February 2012

Leading Australian experts in gut research, gastroenterology, nutrition and dietetics have released their key recommendations for actions to be taken to improve digestive and bowel health for Australians.

The recommendations come out of an Expert Roundtable panel made up of representatives from the Gut Foundation and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The CSIRO is an Australian government-funded agency and is one of Australia’s leading scientific institutes. The Gut Foundation is a non-profit foundation specialising in research and education of all aspects of gastrointestinal and digestive health.

The Expert Roundtable panel had been formed at a meeting of the CSIRO Food Futures meeting in Sydney on 12 October 2011.

A key aspect of the Expert Roundtable findings was that despite perceptions of Australians being aware of a need to consume high levels of fibre – almost reaching the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) target – Australian colorectal cancer rates remained high and continue to be on the increase in Australia.

According to the new recommendations, the Expert Roundtable says the solution is to emphasise a new public health message – not just about eating “more” fibre, but having a more diverse range of food fibre, including soluble and insoluble fibres and resistant starch.

Dr Tony Bird, of the CSIRO Food Futures National Research division says, “Recent evidence suggests that different fibres act through different mechanisms and may be more effective in combination than individually, for promoting bowel health”.

The Expert Roundtable panel recommends numerous changes that can improve large bowel health, lower risk of developing colorectal cancer, and to alleviate day-to-day complaints like constipation, bloating, and heamorrhoids.

The Expert Roundtable recommends the following advice for health professionals:

  • Target high risk consumers such as dieters, breakfast skippers; carbohydrate, gluten or wheat avoiders (often young women), people with celiac disease and older Australians
  • Emphasize the importance of eating the right combination of fibres, “try a threesome of fibres” referring to soluble and insoluble fibre and resistant starch
  • Address misconceptions of “fear of fibre” and encourage people to obtain it from grain foods, as fruit and vegetables alone are not adequate sources
  • Advise gradual changes to dietary fibre intake as well as increasing water intake simultaneously for best results
  • Increase understanding of normal stool size and frequency, gas and bloating
  • Provide people with eating plans and practical, informative resources.