Dietary fibre can promote a shift towards beneficial bacteria in the gut, according to new research.
The study, carried out by the University of Illinois and published in The Journal of Nutrition, claims that this shift can create a healthy gastrointestinal tract and reduce susceptibility to a broad range of conditions including diabetes, obesity and colon cancer.
The researchers believe that their findings give rise to new possibilities to improve intestinal health through the use of pre- and pro-biotics, and position fibre as being potentially more beneficial than its ability to help food move through the intestine.
"When we understand what kinds of fibre best nurture these health-promoting bacteria, we should be able to modify imbalances to support and improve gastrointestinal health," said Professor Kelly Swanson, who led the research team.
The study saw 20 men given snack bars to supplement their diet: one group ate bars with no fibre, while the second ate bars containing 21 grams of polydextrose and the third ate bars containing 21 grams of soluble corn fibre. Faecal samples were then collected and analysed.
Those who had consumed additional fibre beyond their normal daily intake were found to have a greater abundance of bacteria, with soluble corn fibre delivering an increase in Lactobacillus, which is often used as a probiotic.