Background: Evidence-based research highlights beneficial impacts of dietary fibre on several aspects of the gut pathophysiology that are accompanied by a considerable financial burden in healthcare services. Recommended intakes of dietary fibre may thus associate with financial benefits at a population level.
Objective: We sought to systematically assess the potential annual savings in healthcare costs that would follow the reduction in rates of functional constipation and irregularity with increased dietary fibre intakes among Canadian adults.
Design: A cost-of-illness analysis was developed on the basis of current and recommended levels of fibre intake in Canada, constipation reduction per 1 g fibre intake, proportion of adults who are likely to consume fibre-rich diets, and population expected to respond to fibre intake. Sensitivity analyses covering a range of assumptions were further implemented within the economic simulation.
Results: Our literature searches assumed a 1.8% reduction in constipation rates with each 1 g/day increase in fibre intake. With intakes corresponding to the Institute of Medicine's adequate levels of 38 g/day for men and 25 g/day for women, among 5 and 100% of the adult populations, anywhere between CAD$1.5 and CAD$31.9 million could be saved on constipation-related healthcare costs annually. Each 1 g/day increase in dietary fibre was estimated to result in total annual healthcare cost savings that ranged between CAD$0.1 and CAD$2.5 million.
Conclusions: The present research suggests an economic value of increasing dietary fibre intake beyond its well-known health benefits. Healthy-eating behaviours consistent with the recommended intakes of dietary fibre by the general public should hence be advocated as a practical approach for reducing costs associated with the management of constipation in Canada.
Keywords: constipation; cost; dietary fibre; healthcare; nutrition economics; savings.