New research conducted by Deloitte Access Economics and Nutrition Research Australia shows that if every New Zealand adult adds three serves of high fibre grain food to their daily diet, it could save the economy an estimated $607 million a year in reduced healthcare costs and lost productivity, and potentially avert 34,000 new cases of cardiovascular disease and 68,000 new cases of type 2 diabetes.

With New Zealand adults eating well below the fibre intake recommended to help reduce their risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D), there is room for improvement in the nation’s diet.

The research, commissioned by Kellogg’s, shows that CVD and T2D currently cost the economy $2.5 billion a year in healthcare costs and associated lost productivity. Annually, one in three deaths in New Zealand is caused by CVD[ii], making it the single leading cause of death in the country. Meanwhile, diabetes is the underlying cause of approximately 2 in 100 deaths, with more than 53,000 new cases of T2D from 2010 to 2016 – equivalent to one per hour.

Given the effectiveness of grain fibre in reducing the combined risk of these chronic diseases, the research looked into how increasing our grain fibre intake may help to reduce this cost burden.

Modelling by Deloitte Access Economics shows that even adding just two serves of high fibre grain food can potentially help prevent 19,000 new cases of CVD and 38,000 new cases of T2D, and save the health economy more than $340 million per year.

Sarah Hanrahan, CEO of the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, said, “The research is a positive step towards encouraging people not to forget about grains, and to incorporate more grain fibre into their diet over the long term.

“Getting to two more serves could be as simple as having a bowl of high fibre cereal at breakfast, swapping white bread for wholemeal bread at lunch or including corn or brown rice at dinner,” said Hanrahan.

Heather Verry, chief executive of Diabetes NZ welcomes the research.

“Scientific evidence shows that grain fibre provides an even greater risk reduction for type 2 diabetes than fibre from fruit and vegetables, so we’re very supportive of initiatives that help raise awareness of foods that can help protect us,” said Verry.

New Zealand lead partner at Deloitte Access Economics, Linda Meade, says the modelling showed huge potential for population health improvements.

“Because of the reduction in chronic disease risk from grain fibre, we could potentially avert tens of thousands of new cases of chronic disease and save the economy hundreds of millions in associated costs,” said Meade.

Kellogg NZ country manager Ben O’Brien said the research continues Kellogg’s commitment to fibre.

“We’ve been investing in fibre for years now and we know the benefits for people’s health. By commissioning this research, we want to help people understand how important grain fibre is and encourage healthy grain choices over time.

“Let’s not forget fibre from grains when we have discussions about increasing fibre intakes. As the research has shown, it has a big impact on our health and on the economy,” said O'Brien.

The research examined data from the Adult Nutrition Survey to determine the current fibre intakes of New Zealanders.[v] Grain fibre, because of its potential to reduce risk, was then used to model increases in intakes to recommended levels.