Neutral detergent fiber, hemicellulose and cellulose digestibility in human subjects

J. L. Slavin, P. M. Brauer, J. A. Marlett

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The fate of dietary fiber and its components was examined in seven women consuming low cellulose (LC) an high cellulose (HC) diets, each for about 1 month. The diets were of constant daily composition and differed only in that the HC diet contained an additional 16 g/day non-nutritive fiber (Solka Floc), which increased the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) of the diet from 9.5 to 23.5 g/day and Cramptom and Maynard cellulose from 5.4 to 19.3 g/day. When apparent fiber digestibilities during 5-day periods were determined, both NDF and cellulose digestibilities varied greatly and inconsistently in each subject throughout both diet periods. Therefore, samples were pooled to form a single 20-30 day composite for each subject during each diet. Mean apparent NDF digestibility, after correcting for protein contamination in fecal NDF, was 70.4 ± 7.3% during the LC diet and decreased to 23.0 ± 15.0% during the HC diet. Cellulose digestibility was 69.7 ± 10.7% without and 15.7 ± 17.4% with the added cellulose. Hemicellulose was calculated as NDF minus cellulose. When the fecal NDF was corrected for protein contamination, hemicellulose digestibility average 71.7 ± 5.4% during the LC diet and 51.0 ± 7.9% during the HC diet. In a separate experiment, 16 g/day Solka Floc was ingested with a semi-purified liquid diet and only 8% of the cellulose was digested. These results suggest that more than half of the fiber in a LC diet containing fruits, vegetables and refined grains is degraded, while the apparent digestibility of refined cellulose is minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-297
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1981


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