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Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Jul;52(1):128-34.

Dietary fiber: in vitro methods that anticipate nutrition and metabolic activity in humans.

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Gastro-Intestinal Unit, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, Scotland.


Gravimetric measurement of dietary fiber (DF) gives no indication of the biological function of any particular fiber. This study describes simple methods based on dialysis and fermentation that enable a hierarchy of fibers to be described for each of the major actions of fiber along the gastro-intestinal tract: nutrient absorption, sterol metabolism, cecal fermentation, and fecal bulking. These results were compared with previous metabolic studies with the same fiber isolates in humans. DF that modifies nutrient absorption can be identified by using dialysis studies, whereas identifying DF that modifies sterol metabolism, cecal fermentation, and fecal weight requires formulas that incorporate dialysis and fermentation results. Results from dialysis and fermentation predicted the action of wheat bran, pectin, guar, gum arabic, carboxymethylcellulose, gellan, tragacanth, xanthan, and karaya in humans and generated anomalous results for karaya and tragacanth. These methods could form the basis of techniques that would enable a screening of novel and processed fibers before studies in animals, including humans.

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