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Dietary fibre and phytate – a balancing act: results from three time points in a British Birth Cohort

  • Celia J. Prynne (a1), Aine McCarron (a1), Michael E. J. Wadsworth (a2) and Alison M. Stephen (a1)


An investigation was carried out to determine whether there were significant changes in the intake of dietary fibre (NSP) and phytate of adult men and women in the UK from 1982 (aged 36 years) to 1999 (aged 53 years). The 1253 subjects studied were members of the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development; a longitudinal study of a nationally representative cohort of births in 1946. Food intake was recorded in a 5 d diary at age 36 years in 1982, 43 years in 1989 and 53 years in 1999. The food composition database was amended with revised values for phytate. Outcome measures were mean intakes of total NSP and phytate by year, sex and food source. There were significant changes in total NSP and phytate intake over the three time points. Intakes of NSP rose significantly between 1982 and 1999 for men and women but phytate intakes rose significantly only between 1989 and 1999. Cereal foods were the most important source of both NSP and phytate. Between 1989 and 1999 there was a significant increase in the contribution from pasta, rice and other grains. The present study shows that an increase in dietary fibre that is in accordance with dietary guidelines would almost inevitably be accompanied by a rise in phytate. The increased dietary phytate is discussed in relation to its recognised inhibition of mineral absorption and its merits with regard to protection against some cancers and other diseases of an ageing population.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Dr C. J. Prynne, fax +44 1223 437515, email


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