Difference Between Wheat Dextrin and Psyllium Husk

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Some breakfast cereals include psyllium to increase the amount of fiber they contain.
Some breakfast cereals include psyllium to increase the amount of fiber they contain. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images)

Adding more fiber to your diet can help lower your risk of heart disease and constipation and may help with weight loss as well, according to a 2013 article published in Nutrients. Both fiber supplements have their benefits and drawbacks. A registered dietitian or other medical professional can help you figure out which one is right for you.

Type of Fiber

Wheat dextrin is a soluble fiber, meaning it dissolves in water, that is fermentable. Fermentable fibers are those that can be broken down by beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Psyllium is also a soluble fiber, but it is more viscous than fermentable, which means it forms a gel when mixed with water. Fermentable and viscous fibers have somewhat different effects in the body.

Prebiotic Effects

Both wheat dextrin and psyllium act as prebiotics, helping to create a good balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract and limit the amount of unhealthy bacteria. Wheat dextrin may be better for this purpose, however, as it may provide more short-chain fatty acids to the colon and decrease pH more than psyllium. Both of these factors help limit the growth of disease-causing organisms, according to the 2013 Nutrients article.

Potential Health Benefits

Viscous fibers, like psyllium, may help lower your risk of heart disease by decreasing your low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol levels, while not adversely affecting your high-density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol levels. Wheat dextrin may limit the absorption of cholesterol, helping you keep cholesterol at a healthy level.

Both psyllium and wheat dextrin may be helpful for controlling appetite. Psyllium can help limit constipation by absorbing water and making your stool bulkier and easier to pass. Wheat dextrin may help increase fecal output as well, according to a review article published in the Journal of International Medical Research in February 2009. This article also noted that wheat dextrin may help lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

Potential Considerations

Both of these types of fiber can cause gas, bloating or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Starting with a small serving taken with a full glass of water and working your way up to larger servings can help minimize this effect.

Some people are concerned that increasing dietary fiber may inhibit the absorption of certain vitamins or minerals. A study published in 2011 in The Journal of International Medical Research found that wheat dextrin supplements didn't decrease the absorption of magnesium or calcium, however, because it isn't a viscous fiber. Psyllium, a viscous fiber, may inhibit the absorption of these minerals if taken at the same time.

Wheat dextrin isn't safe for people who have celiac disease, as it does contain trace amounts of gluten. There is also a possibility of medication interactions or allergic reactions, so speak with your doctor before taking either fiber supplement to make sure it is safe for you.

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