Objective: Butyrate enemas may be effective in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis. Because colonic fermentation of Plantago ovata seeds (dietary fiber) yields butyrate, the aim of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of Plantago ovata seeds as compared with mesalamine in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis.
Methods: An open label, parallel-group, multicenter, randomized clinical trial was conducted. A total of 105 patients with ulcerative colitis who were in remission were randomized into groups to receive oral treatment with Plantago ovata seeds (10 g b.i.d.), mesalamine (500 mg t.i.d.), and Plantago ovata seeds plus mesalamine at the same doses. The primary efficacy outcome was maintenance of remission for 12 months.
Results: Of the 105 patients, 102 were included in the final analysis. After 12 months, treatment failure rate was 40% (14 of 35 patients) in the Plantago ovata seed group, 35% (13 of 37) in the mesalamine group, and 30% (nine of 30) in the Plantago ovata plus mesalamine group. Probability of continued remission was similar (Mantel-Cox test, p = 0.67; intent-to-treat analysis). Therapy effects remained unchanged after adjusting for potential confounding variables with a Cox's proportional hazards survival analysis. Three patients were withdrawn because of the development of adverse events consisting of constipation and/or flatulence (Plantago ovata seed group = 1 and Plantago ovata seed plus mesalamine group = 2). A significant increase in fecal butyrate levels (p = 0.018) was observed after Plantago ovata seed administration.
Conclusions: Plantago ovata seeds (dietary fiber) might be as effective as mesalamine to maintain remission in ulcerative colitis.