Whole-grain wheat breakfast cereal has a prebiotic effect on the human gut microbiota: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study

Br J Nutr. 2008 Jan;99(1):110-20. doi: 10.1017/S0007114507793923. Epub 2007 Aug 29.


Epidemiological studies have shown an inverse association between dietary intake of whole grains and the risk of chronic disease. This may be related to the ability to mediate a prebiotic modulation of gut microbiota. However, no studies have been conducted on the microbiota modulatory capability of whole-grain (WG) cereals. In the present study, the impact of WG wheat on the human intestinal microbiota compared to wheat bran (WB) was determined. A double-blind, randomised, crossover study was carried out in thirty-one volunteers who were randomised into two groups and consumed daily 48 g breakfast cereals, either WG or WB, in two 3-week study periods, separated by a 2-week washout period. Numbers of faecal bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (the target genera for prebiotic intake), were significantly higher upon WG ingestion compared with WB. Ingestion of both breakfast cereals resulted in a significant increase in ferulic acid concentrations in blood but no discernible difference in faeces or urine. No significant differences in faecal SCFA, fasting blood glucose, insulin, total cholesterol (TC), TAG or HDL-cholesterol were observed upon ingestion of WG compared with WB. However, a significant reduction in TC was observed in volunteers in the top quartile of TC concentrations upon ingestion of either cereal. No adverse intestinal symptoms were reported and WB ingestion increased stool frequency. Daily consumption of WG wheat exerted a pronounced prebiotic effect on the human gut microbiota composition. This prebiotic activity may contribute towards the beneficial physiological effects of WG wheat.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Comet Assay
  • Coumaric Acids / analysis
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / analysis
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Foods, Specialized*
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Insulin / blood
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Triticum*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Coumaric Acids
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol
  • ferulic acid