Despite being a lifetime jogger and careful follower of dietary guidelines, between the ages of 45 and 55 Gerald Davies, a trained doctor specialised in cardiothoracic anesthesiology, steadily began putting on weight.
His moment of epiphany - which led to him promptly shedding the weight and donning his 30-year-old suits again - came when he read 'Good Caloriesw Bad Calories' by Gary Taubes. The book disputes the alleged role of fat in causing obesity – a belief that has shaped most countries’ dietary guidelines for years – instead shifting the blame to carbohydrate-rich diets and their chronic lack of fibre.
After a brief stint heading up a healthy, low glycemic restaurant in Florida, Davies returned to his native Wales but continued reading into the growing body of research on the microbiome and how fibre fermentation benefits gut function.
Healthy bacteria in the gut feed on fibre from food such as cellulose-rich vegetables.
When they eat this fibre they produce short-chain fatty acids which, in turn, stimulate the production of GLP1 & PYY, known as anti-diabetes and satiety hormones.
“The pharmaceutical industry has two GLP1 agonist drugs on the market approved for obesity and diabetes – Exenatide and Liraglutide – and many more GLP1 agonists are in the pipeline,” Davies told FoodNavigator.
“The prospect [is one] of pharmaceutical companies making billions while the food industry continues to churn out foods made out of dirt cheap starch and sugar.”
Combining his knowledge of home baking and preventive medicine, Davies began experimenting in the kitchen to create a low-carb, high-fibre flour with the same functionality as regular flour.
The result is a blend of oat bran, flax/linseed flour, wheat bran, inulin and wheat protein as well as conditioners, packing in 21% protein, 40% fibre, 18% available carbohydrate and 7% fat which comes from the linseed and contains omega-3 fatty acids.
The fibre comes from a variety of different natural sources - both soluble and insoluble - including lignans, betaglucans, oligofructans and inulin. As a comparison, whole-wheat flour generally contains around 10% fibre and around 60% rapidly digested starches.
“[This flour] addresses the two public health ‘elephants’ ignored by government guidelines: chronic repetitive raised glucose and insulin levels in response to virtually every meal, and the flip side: a fibre gap that has much more serious metabolic consequences than are generally appreciated.”
The fact that FiberFlour contains gluten from the wheat means the dough retains key functional properties such as elasticity, consistency and rise, and can be used to make leavened and flat bread, pizza, biscuits, cookies, muffins and snack bars.
'The US market is more advanced than Europe for this kind of product'
FiberFlour retails at £6.75 (€8.75) per kilo - less for volume customers and commercial bakers. This is cheaper than competing low-carb flours made from almond flour or coconut which retail at around £10 (€11.60) per kilo.
It currently produces 1000 kg batches that are sold in 12.5 kg and 1 kg bags, but can increase this “quickly and substantially” if there is a sudden rise in demand, said Davies, and its current manufacturing partner Romix Foods would like to increase production to several tons a day.
The link between a lack of diversity and fibre in processed food and the rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes has also been chronicled by Professor Tim Spector in his book The Diet Myth. Read our interview with him here.
FiberFlour currently supplies to customers in the UK via its website (a listing on Amazon will follow soon) but has had inquiries from Australia, Spain, Mexico and, principally, the US.
In fact, it’s in the US where Davies, a dual US and UK citizen sees the most potential for the flour – hence the US spelling of fibre in the company’s name. “Every supermarket there has a low carb baking section with all sorts of ingredients of interest to low carb bakers such as almond flour, gluten, xanthan and coconut flour.”
Will the food evangelists buy it?
When so much of the conversation on healthy eating focuses on Instagram-friendly superfoods such as chia seeds, goji berries or stevia, a high fibre flour to stimulate fermentation in the gut can hardly be described as the sexiest of products or claims. But, Davies said, it has robust science behind it.
“I agree high fibre claims are not the most popular amongst the food evangelists although low carb and low sugar are - and for good reason,” said Davies. “But you can’t quit carbs without eating something else."
“However, glamorous or not, of the very few health claims approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as opposed to nutritional claims, fibre has been approved for several.”