Whole grains and digestive health

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26 Scopus citations


Whole grains contain all parts of the grain: the endosperm, germ, and bran. Whole grains are rich in fermentable carbohydrates that reach the gut: dietary fiber, resistant starch, and oligosaccharides. Most research that supports the importance of grains to gut health was conducted with isolated fiber fractions, rather than whole grains. Whole grains are an important source of dietary fiber and grain fibers such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye increase stool weight, speed intestinal transit, get fermented to short chain fatty acids, and modify the gut microflora. Wheat bran is particularly effective in increasing stool weight; wheat bran increases stool weight by a ratio of 5:1. In contrast, many novel fibers that are easily incorporated into beverages and foods increase stool weight only on a ratio of l:l. In vitro fermentation studies with whole grains have been published. Carbohydrates of oat bran (rich in β-glucan) were consumed by bacteria faster than those of rye and wheat brans (rich in arabinoxylan). Grain fibers were fermented more slowly than inulin, causing less gas production. Wheat is particularly high in fructo-oligosaccharides, while wheat germ is high in raffinose oligosaccharides. Some in vivo studies show the prebiotic potential of whole grains. Whole grain breakfast cereal was more effective than wheat bran breakfast cereal as a prebiotic, increasing fecal bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in human subjects. Wheat bran consumption increased stool frequency. Thus, the gut enhancing effects of cereal fibers are well known. Limited data exist that whole grains alter gut health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-296
Number of pages5
JournalCereal Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


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