Intervention with dietary fiber to treat constipation and reduce laxative use in residents of nursing homes

Ann Nutr Metab. 2008;52 Suppl 1:54-6. doi: 10.1159/000115351. Epub 2008 Mar 7.


Background: Residents of nursing homes have lost their independence. Recent studies reported that nutritional problems arise in nursing homes. These problems are correlated with changed eating habits and geriatric constipation which is predominantly treated with laxatives. These interventions are not always without risk since frequent usage of laxatives may be accompanied by several side effects. Dietary fibers also affect stool weight and transit time. Therefore, oat-bran effectiveness in reducing the need for bowel medication was examined.

Aim: To develop diets with the addition of oat bran for reduction of laxatives and to improve the inhabitants' well-being in a long-term-care facility.

Methods: A controlled blind parallel intervention trial among 30 frail inhabitants of a geriatric ward aged 57-100 years with laxative use. An intervention and a control group were formed. 15 of them received oat bran for 12 weeks (fiber group) mixed up in the daily common diet of the ward and 15 served as control (control group). Laxative use, body weight and the observations concerning the eating habits of the elderly were documented.

Results: A cake with the required dietary fibers and the complaisant acceptance of the seniors was developed. Laxatives were successfully discontinued by 59% (p < 0.001) in the fiber group. Body weight remained constant in the fiber group and decreased in the control group (p < 0.005).

Conclusion: Fiber supplementation in the form of a cake allows discontinuation of laxatives and increases the seniors' well-being in a nursing home.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Constipation / diet therapy*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / physiology
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Laxatives / administration & dosage
  • Laxatives / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Homes
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Laxatives