Dietary fiber and digestive health in children

Nutr Rev. 2017 Apr 1;75(4):241-259. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw068.


Digestive health is an expanding area in nutrition research due to the interest in how food components such as fiber affect gastrointestinal tolerance, stool form, defecation frequency, transit time, and gut microbial composition and metabolic activity. In children, however, digestive health studies that intervene with dietary fiber are limited due to legal and ethical concerns. To better understand if fiber improves digestive health in children, a literature review was conducted to answer the following research question: What are the effect(s) of fiber-containing foods and/or supplements on digestive health outcomes in children? A search of the PubMed database identified a total of 12 studies that fit the inclusion criteria established for this review. Most of the evidence in children shows beneficial effects of partially hydrolyzed guar gum, glucomannan, and bran on digestive health outcomes; however, the existing evidence is not conclusive. Furthermore, limited data exists on the effect of whole-grain sources of dietary fiber, such as oats. Additional well-designed intervention trials are needed to determine whether outcomes of digestive health such as stool form, gastrointestinal tolerance, and stool frequency are improved by increasing the fiber content of children's diets with whole-grain sources.

Keywords: children; dietary fiber; digestive health; stool form scale; whole grains.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Health
  • Dietary Fiber* / pharmacology
  • Dietary Fiber* / therapeutic use
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diet therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans


  • Dietary Fiber