A Melbourne-based dietician is claiming a world first with the launch of a new range of low-Fodmap foods, opening up a new “free-from” market segment that she believes has the potential to rival gluten-free products.
According to Sue Shepherd, who is behind the range, low-Fodmap foods improve digestive health, and are based on a diet low in certain naturally occurring fibres and sugars that was developed as a dietary therapy for patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
The name is an acronym of Fermentable, Oligosaccharide, Disaccharide, Monosaccharide and Polyols and the diet has solid, if somewhat limited, scientific evidence as a treatment for IBS.
Shepherd, a senior lecturer at LaTrobe University, was the first to put the pieces together and tie them all to IBS. She developed the low-Fodmap diet in 1999 to bring relief to patients in both her private and clinical practice.
The Sue Shepherd low-Fodmap food range includes many of the foods she identified as problematic for dieters, and consists of a slow-cooked vegetable stock, pastas sauces, soups and two meal kits. The entire range is also gluten-free, made without onion and garlic, with no artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.
“Many in the food industry view the scientific basis of Fodmaps as controversial,” said Julian Mellentin, an international specialist in the business of food, nutrition and health.
“Some will deny that it is anything more than a niche medicalised concern of little broader relevance.
“However, gluten-free eating was also—not very long ago—dismissed as just such a niche. Thanks to the web, consumers can do their own research, conduct their own personal eating experiments and find what they believe works for them.”
Research suggests that the results of the diet can be immediate for many patients. Shepherd, a digestive health expert, is the first person to have developed a range of foods specially formulated to meet the needs of a Fodmap diet with foods that are low in the relevant fibres and sugars.
In Australia alone, there are an estimated 5m people with IBS and non-celiac gluten intolerance. Worldwide, the condition, depending on how it is defined, can affect up to 20% of the population, with the highest rates in the United States and European Union, according to figures from the World Gastroenterology Organisation.
IBS has traditionally been resistant to treatment, but the success of the Fodmap approach for many people is giving the idea wings.
“These forces might yet make Fodmaps a force to be reckoned with. After all, digestive health has been one of the biggest trends in the business of food and health for over 20 years,” added Mellentin.
“Addressing digestive health issues is the basis of successful brands such as Activia probiotic yoghurt. Digestive health also lies at the core of why many people choose gluten-free foods. And addressing digestive health issues—IBS—is the aim of the Fodmaps diet.
“Who’s to say that more consumers won’t find information about it on the web and favour ‘Fodmap-friendly’ foods? Or that it won't steadily grow to become a force—a niche force perhaps but a force nonetheless—as gluten-free has done?
“Smart companies will keep an eye on Fodmaps.”