Although clinical benefits of dietary fiber supplementation seem to depend partially on the extent of fiber degradation and fermentation by colonic bacteria, little is known about the effect of supplemental fiber type on bacterial metabolism. In an experiment using a nonadapted human bacterial population from three normal subjects, the extent of in vitro fermentation was greater for gum arabic (GA) than for psyllium (PSY), which was greater than that for carboxymethylcellulose (CMC). In a separate experiment, in vitro incubation with feces from 52 subjects with fecal incontinence, before and after random assignment to and consumption of one of three fiber (GA, PSY, or CMC) supplements or a placebo for 20-21 days, indicated that prior consumption of a specific fiber source did not increase its degradation by fecal bacteria. Results suggest that the colonic microbial community enriched on a particular fiber substrate can rapidly adapt to the presentation of a new fiber substrate. Clinical implications of the findings are that intake of a fiber source by humans is not expected to result in bacterial adaptation that would require continually larger and eventually intolerable amounts of fiber to achieve therapeutic benefits.
- dietary fiber
- fiber degradation and fermentation in humans