How Important is Digestive Health?

Digestive health is second only to general wellbeing among consumers’ top health concerns. What occurs in the gut affects more than just digestion and absorption of nutrients. For example, it is the largest immune system in the body and communicates with the brain.

Not only is the digestive system a key mediating factor in a wide range of important health outcomes, it helps explain the substantial between-person differences that often obscure how diet affects health. IAFNS has several projects underway to understand the role of digestion and health.

Measuring Normal Gut Permeability

The primary function of the gut is to serve as a barrier that allows essential nutrients to be absorbed while protecting the body against detrimental chemicals and organisms. Although certain types of fiber may help maintain gut barrier function, there is no recognized standard method to measure this function, and therefore it cannot be used to define an ingredient as fiber in U.S. food labeling.

Following the convening of an expert panel, we are funding research at the Mayo Clinic with two purposes: 1) to standardize a method to measure permeability, including whether fiber intake needs to be standardized; and 2) to publish preliminary data for normal permeability.


Learn more about the IAFNS Carbohydrates Committee.


Role For Diet In Normal Gut Barrier Function:
Developing Guidance Within The Framework Of Food-Labeling Regulations

Learn more about the IAFNS Carbohydrate Committee


What’s the Deal with Fiber in My Diet?

Thousands of human intervention studies have been completed on various fibers and fiber-rich foods examining a wide range of health outcomes, including several digestive health benefits. We work collaboratively with Tufts University to develop and maintain a public database comprehensively capturing data on all English language peer-reviewed randomized clinical trials on fiber and 10 key health outcomes. This database enables quick literature searches on fiber by health outcome .  the database also enables Systematic Reviews of studies to develop evidence-based dietary recommendations on fiber intake.

Learn more about the IAFNS Carbohydrate Committee


What is a “Healthy Gut Microbiome?”

The gut microbiome is emerging as key mediator between diet and diet-related health outcomes – but our understanding of the gut microbiome and links to health is in its earliest stages.  Foundational to understanding how diet can promote health is to define a “healthy” gut microbiome and how it can be measured.

To define a “healthy” gut microbiome, we organized a roundtable featuring global experts in gut microbiome research and published a consensus document in 2019. We continue to explore the evidence for understanding links between diet, the gut microbiome and health.


Establishing What Constitutes A Healthy Human Gut Microbiome: State Of The Science, Regulatory Considerations, And Future Directions