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J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Aug;18(4):339-45.

The effect of wheat bran particle size on laxation and colonic fermentation.

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Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Due to perceived inferior fecal bulking ability, finely ground wheat bran is not recommended for treatment of colonic disorders, despite possible short chain fatty acid generation with potential benefits for colonic mucosal health. We therefore tested the effects of very fine particle size wheat bran on colonic function.


Two studies, each with three phases, were undertaken in healthy subjects in a randomized crossover design. In one study (metabolic, n=23) subjects took three diets containing either an additional 19 g/d dietary fiber with mean particle size (MPS) 50 microm or 758 microm in bread or a control low fiber bread. In the other study where the supplement was provided as a breakfast cereal (ad libitum, n=24) the respective wheat bran MPS were 692 microm and 1158 microm and the control was low fiber. Fecal collections were obtained during the last week of each diet. In the metabolic study, fecal short chain fatty acids were measured and 12-hour breath gas collections obtained.


In both studies, wheat bran supplements significantly increased fecal bulk compared to the control (p<0.004), with no significant differences between brans of different particle size and no differences in fecal water content. However, higher fecal butyrate concentrations (p<0.007), butyrate output and breath CH4 levels (p=0.025) were seen on the low MPS wheat bran compared to the other two treatments, suggesting increased bacterial fermentation.


Fine MPS wheat bran is an effective fecal bulking agent and may have added advantages if increased butyrate concentrations promote colonic mucosal integrity.

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