Less than 10% of most Western populations consume adequate levels of whole fruits and dietary fiber with typical intake being about half of the recommended levels. Evidence of the beneficial health effects of consuming adequate levels of whole fruits has been steadily growing, especially regarding their bioactive fiber prebiotic effects and role in improved weight control, wellness and healthy aging. The primary aim of this narrative review article is to examine the increasing number of health benefits which are associated with the adequate intake of whole fruits, especially fruit fiber, throughout the human lifecycle. These potential health benefits include: protecting colonic gastrointestinal health (e.g., constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases, and diverticular disease); promoting long-term weight management; reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome; defending against colorectal and lung cancers; improving odds of successful aging; reducing the severity of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; enhancing psychological well-being and lowering the risk of depression; contributing to higher bone mineral density in children and adults; reducing risk of seborrheic dermatitis; and helping to attenuate autism spectrum disorder severity. Low whole fruit intake represents a potentially more serious global population health threat than previously recognized, especially in light of the emerging research on whole fruit and fruit fiber health benefits.
Keywords: asthma; bone mineral density; cancer; cardiovascular disease; depression; diabetes; gastrointestinal health; metabolic syndrome; prebiotic effects; psychological well-being; successful aging; weight management.