A study of fructo oligosaccharides in the prevention of travellers' diarrhoea

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2001 Aug;15(8):1139-45. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.2001.01043.x.


Background: Prebiotic carbohydrates selectively stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the human colon. These bacteria form part of the gut's inherent defence against invading pathogens.

Aim: To test the effectiveness of fructo oligosaccharides in preventing travellers' diarrhoea.

Methods: A total of 244 healthy subjects, travelling to high and medium risk destinations for travellers' diarrhoea, took part in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The protocol comprised a preliminary week for recording bowel habit by diary, a 2-week pre-holiday period with the diary and consumption of 10 g of fructo oligosaccharides or placebo daily, followed by a 2-week holiday with continuation of treatment and diary. A post-study questionnaire was completed by all subjects on their return to the UK.

Results: The consumption of fructo oligosaccharides led to a small (6%; P < 0.02) increase in stool frequency in the pre-holiday period and gave a significantly better sense of 'well-being' during the holiday, although subjects reported more flatulence. There were non-significant decreases in episodes of diarrhoea with 20% on placebo and 11% on fructo oligosaccharides recording episodes in the post-study questionnaire (P=0.08) and 46% placebo, 38% fructo oligosaccharides recording episodes in the diary (P > 0.1). No change in bowel frequency, consistency or stool size was recorded.

Conclusion: Travel to high risk areas increases diarrhoea. Fructo oligosaccharides alone are not sufficient to prevent this, although do have some benefits for the subjects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bifidobacterium / physiology
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy*
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Feces
  • Female
  • Flatulence
  • Fructose / administration & dosage
  • Fructose / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Lactobacillus / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oligosaccharides / administration & dosage
  • Oligosaccharides / therapeutic use*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Travel
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Oligosaccharides
  • Fructose