More fibre could avert disease, save millions - research

19 February 2018

If every Kiwi adult added three serves of high fibre grain food to their daily diet, it could avert 34,000 new cases of cardiovascular disease and 68,000 new cases of type 2 diabetes, according to new research, and save the economy an estimated $607 million a year in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Modelling by Deloitte Access Economics shows that even adding just two serves of high fibre grain food can potentially help prevent 19,000 new cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 38,000 new cases of type 2 diabetes (T2D), and save the health economy more than $340 million per year.

The research was commissioned by Kellogg’s and conducted by Deloitte Access Economics and Nutrition Research Australia using data from the 2008-2009 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey, together with relevant public health reports.

It shows that CVD and T2D currently cost the economy $2.5 billion a year in healthcare costs and associated lost productivity. Annually, one in three deaths in New Zealand are caused by CVD, making it the single leading cause of death. Meanwhile, diabetes is the underlying cause of approximately 2 in 100 deaths, with more than 53,000 new cases of T2D from 2010 to 2016 – equivalent to one per hour.

Given the effectiveness of grain fibre in reducing the combined risk of these chronic diseases, the research looked into how increasing our grain fibre intake may help to reduce this cost burden.

With New Zealand adults eating well below the fibre intake recommended to help reduce their risk of chronic diseases such as CVD and T2D, there is room for improvement in the nation’s diet.

Sarah Hanrahan, CEO of the Nutrition Foundation, said, “The research is a positive step towards encouraging people not to forget about grains, and to incorporate more grain fibre into their diet over the long term.

Heather Verry, chief executive of Diabetes NZ welcomed the research.

“Scientific evidence shows that grain fibre provides an even greater risk reduction for type 2 diabetes than fibre from fruit and vegetables, so we’re very supportive of initiatives that help raise awareness of foods that can help protect us.”

New Zealand lead partner at Deloitte Access Economics, Linda Meade, says the modelling showed huge potential for population health improvements.

Kellogg NZ country manager Ben O’Brien said the research continues Kellogg’s commitment to fibre.

“We’ve been investing in fibre for years now and we know the benefits for people’s health. By commissioning this research, we want to help people understand how important grain fibre is and encourage healthy grain choices over time.

To get to your two serves, choose any two of these grain foods:

• A bowl of high fibre cereal (2/3 cup)

• ½ cup of cooked porridge

• 2 slices of wholemeal or high fibre bread

• ¼ cup of whole grains such as whole barley or corn

• 1 cup of cooked wholemeal pasta

Read the research paper

Fibre infographic