Perspective: Assessing Tolerance to Nondigestible Carbohydrate Consumption

Hannah D. Holscher, Bruno P. Chumpitazi, Wendy J. Dahl, George C. Fahey, De Ann J. Liska, Joanne L. Slavin, Kristin Verbeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Human intestinal enzymes do not hydrolyze nondigestible carbohydrates (NDCs), and thus, they are not digested and absorbed in the small intestine. Instead, NDCs are partially to completely fermented by the intestinal microbiota. Select NDCs are associated with health benefits such as laxation and lowering of blood cholesterol and glucose. NDCs provide functional attributes to processed foods, including sugar or fat replacers, thickening agents, and bulking agents. Additionally, NDCs are incorporated into processed foods to increase their fiber content. Although consumption of NDCs can benefit health and contribute functional characteristics to foods, they can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as flatulence and bloating. As gastrointestinal symptoms negatively affect consumer well-being and their acceptance of foods containing NDC ingredients, it is crucial to consider tolerance when designing food products and testing their physiological health benefits in clinical trials. This perspective provides recommendations for the approach to assess gastrointestinal tolerance to NDCs, with a focus on study design, population criteria, intervention, comparator, and outcome. Special issues related to studies in children and implications for stakeholders are also discussed. It is recommended that the evaluation of gastrointestinal tolerance to NDCs be conducted in randomized, blinded, controlled crossover studies using standard gastrointestinal questionnaires, with attention to study participant background diets, health status, lifestyle, and medications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2084-2097
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition.


  • dietary fiber
  • gastrointestinal intolerance
  • laxation
  • low-digestible carbohydrates
  • oligosaccharides


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