What is the FODMAP diet and how can food and drink manufacturers help cater for those following it?

Posted by Media Release Agency on 28th May 2020

The following article has been written by Kirstie Canene-Adams, PhD, Senior Scientist at Tate & Lyle PLC

One in 5 Australian adults develops Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at some point in their lives, and it is twice as common in women as men. The FODMAP diet can help alleviate the symptoms of IBS, but it can be a challenge for those following it to get enough fibre. By developing low FODMAP products and adding easily digestible, FODMAP-free fibres, food and drink manufacturers can support those on a FODMAP diet maintain a healthy gut.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are types of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in various food items that the body can sometimes have difficulty metabolising.

What is a FODMAP diet?

For some people, FODMAPs can cause bloating, stomach pain or other digestive problems. The FODMAP diet eliminates or reduces the number of FODMAPs to help alleviate these symptoms. It has been shown to be particularly effective for those suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), with as many as 3 in 4 reporting an improvement in symptoms when following the diet.

The diet, which originated in Australia, involves cutting out all foods containing FODMAPs for an initial period, and then slowly reintroducing some FODMAPs back into the diet, identifying one by one which types the individual can tolerate and in what amount. FODMAPs should not be completely eliminated from the diet over the long term because they are important for gut health. The aim is to identify and limit the ones that trigger gastrointestinal problems and build back in the others.

Which foods contain FODMAPs?

Are there any negative side effects of a low FODMAP diet?

Some FODMAP components promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and are therefore beneficial for most people. This diet is therefore not recommended to those who do not suffer with IBS.

For the same reason, it is important that anyone on the FODMAP diet reintroduces as many FODMAPs as they are able to tolerate in the second phase of the diet.

An additional challenge of this diet is that it can often be low in fibre, as many high-fibre foods (such as certain legumes, fruits and cereals) are restricted or excluded. It is possible to obtain sufficient fibre from other low FODMAP sources – that being said, the dieter should seek to consume foods that have a higher content of soluble fibres than insoluble fibres. This is because insoluble fibres are not as easily digested and can therefore cause gastrointestinal discomfort, which would be somewhat counterproductive to the purpose of being on a FODMAP diet.

How can food and drink manufacturers help ensure those following the FODMAP diet get sufficient fibre? Increasing numbers of manufacturers are producing low FODMAP products and it is possible to have them certified as such. Low FODMAP products can help dieters navigate the complex list of restricted foods in the first phase of the diet. When it comes to new product launches of this type, Australia is leading the way in the Asia-Pacific region – of the 49 new low FODMAP products launched in the region in 2018 and 2019, 35 (more than 70%) were in Australia. And this is more than three times the number of low FODMAP product launches in Australia in the two years prior to that, with 11 launches in 2016-17.

On the issue of fibre, while dieters can achieve sufficient intake by carefully selecting natural sources of soluble fibre that are also low in FODMAPs (such as oats, carrots or oranges), manufacturers can assist them by fortifying low FODMAP products with additional fibre.

For example, Tate & Lyle’s PROMITOR® Soluble Fibre does not contain any FODMAPs and is shown to have excellent gastrointestinal tolerance compared with other fibres such as inulin or fructooligosaccharides. Clinical trials have shown that multiple doses of PROMITOR® can be consumed several times a day without any gastrointestinal discomfort.

Food and drink manufacturers can therefore play a role by providing low FODMAP, high fibre options to dieters who want to ensure sufficient fibre intake without compromising their diet or their gastrointestinal comfort.