Can Shrinking the fiber deficit help shrink the national deficit?

Health Economics Modeling Reveals Potential Health Cost Savings with Increased Consumption of Dietary Fiber. 

Physician visits for occasional irregularity and other digestive issues experienced by Americans has grown considerably in the last 20 years, contributing to an increase in health care costs. Could part of the solution may be as simple as getting more fiber into our daily diets? 

A new health economic study on occasional irregularity shows a potential health care savings of $12.7 billion per year if U.S. adults would increase their dietary fiber to about 25 grams, the minimum level recommended by health experts for adults. Overall, 95% of Americans don’t meet their daily dietary fiber recommendations. For kids, aged 2-18 years, that number is even higher at about 97%. 

The study, carried out by an independent group of researchers in nutritional sciences, epidemiology, and health economics from Exponent, Inc. Health Sciences and commissioned by Kellogg Company, evaluated the direct medical costs associated with occasional irregularity problems among adults in the U.S. The research team, developed a model to determine the potential money that could be saved through preventive, lifestyle-related measures, in this case, increasing dietary fiber intake. 

Another finding of the study concluded that even if only half of the U.S. population increased their dietary fiber intake by just three grams a day there could still be more than $2 billion in health care cost savings. 

“With the rising cost of health care, this research highlights the importance of simple, realistic changes that we can make to our diet. Something as simple as eating more fiber, which could contribute to significant health care savings,” said Dominik Alexander, Ph.D., MSPH, a principal epidemiologist, who managed the research team conducting the study. 

Making these changes part of everyday eating patterns, including having a fiber-containing cereal at breakfast with a banana, swapping white bread and pastas for their whole wheat versions and having a fiber-containing snack bar can help drive fiber consumption closer to recommended intakes. 

Who knew that reducing the fiber deficit might also help to shrink the national deficit? 


Sources

1. Cost savings of reduced constipation rates attributed to increased dietary fiber intakes: a decision-analytic model. BMC Public Health, 2014.