Koreans are eating too much fiber

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Koreans are eating too much fiber

More than 600,000 Korean children consume too much dietary fiber, exposing them to potential side effects including growth impediment, according to a pediatric expert Monday.

Fiber has become a fad in Korea, and seems to have gotten out of control.

Moon Jin-soo, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Seoul National University Hospital, detailed his team’s analysis of 2015 data on Koreans’ nutritional intake from the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korean Nutrition Society on Monday.

The data showed that some 6.5 percent of Korean children between one and two years old are consuming excess dietary fiber. A third of adults over 50 years old also take in too much fiber, according to this study.

“Recently, dietary fiber has gotten a reputation for preventing obesity, so there are cases of parents feeding their children too much,” Moon said at a press conference at the Press Center in central Seoul. “At our hospital we have young patients who come with diarrhea and stomach aches because of excessive consumption of dietary fiber.”

Koreans already consume a lot of fiber through kimchi.

One of Moon’s patients, a 13-month-old baby, suffered serious weight loss after being fed boiled pear preserved in honey, considered a healthy and popular baby food choice amongst Korean mothers. The child went from 10 kilograms to 8.1 kilograms.

“If children and adolescents who are growing consume too much dietary fiber, their ability to absorb calcium decreases,” said Moon. “This can lead to side effects such as diarrhea or stomach pain, as well as to growth being stunted.”

Dietary fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. Cellulose fiber found in plant-based foods is indigestible.

Too much fiber in the diet can lead to excessive gas and hinder the body’s absorption of vitamins, minerals and proteins.

Moon recommended that babies under the age of two not be given supplemental fiber because they get enough through regular meals. “Adults likewise who have proper three meals a day do not worry about consuming too little fiber in a day,” he said.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare recently released a study of nutritional intake of Koreans taken in 2013 which showed that 37.8 percent of older adults between 50 and 64 years old and 33.5 percent of seniors between 65 and 74 years old consumed excess dietary fiber. Around one-fifth of adults in their 30s and 40s, 10.8 percent of those in their 20s, 8.6 percent of teens between the ages of 15 and 18, and 6.1 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 14 consumed excess dietary fiber.

Health experts point out that eating more than 50 grams of dietary fiber per day could lead to excessive mineral intake, and that can lead to diverticulitis, or inflammation of the colon.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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