A review of the characteristics of dietary fibers relevant to appetite and energy intake outcomes in human intervention trials

Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Sep;106(3):747-754. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.157172. Epub 2017 Jul 19.


Background: Many intervention studies have tested the effect of dietary fibers (DFs) on appetite-related outcomes, with inconsistent results. However, DFs comprise a wide range of compounds with diverse properties, and the specific contribution of these to appetite control is not well characterized.Objective: The influence of specific DF characteristics [i.e., viscosity, gel-forming capacity, fermentability, or molecular weight (MW)] on appetite-related outcomes was assessed in healthy humans.Design: Controlled human intervention trials that tested the effects of well-characterized DFs on appetite ratings or energy intake were identified from a systematic search of literature. Studies were included only if they reported 1) DF name and origin and 2) data on viscosity, gelling properties, fermentability, or MW of the DF materials or DF-containing matrixes.Results: A high proportion of the potentially relevant literature was excluded because of lack of adequate DF characterization. In total, 49 articles that met these criteria were identified, which reported 90 comparisons of various DFs in foods, beverages, or supplements in acute or sustained-exposure trials. In 51 of the 90 comparisons, the DF-containing material of interest was efficacious for ≥1 appetite-related outcome. Reported differences in material viscosity, MW, or fermentability did not clearly correspond to differences in efficacy, whereas gel-forming DF sources were consistently efficacious (but with very few comparisons).Conclusions: The overall inconsistent relations of DF properties with respect to efficacy may reflect variation in measurement methodology, nature of the DF preparation and matrix, and study designs. Methods of DF characterization, incorporation, and study design are too inconsistent to allow generalized conclusions about the effects of DF properties on appetite and preclude the development of reliable, predictive, structure-function relations. Improved standards for characterization and reporting of DF sources and DF-containing materials are strongly recommended for future studies on the effects of DF on human physiology. This trial was registered at http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO as CRD42015015336.

Keywords: appetite regulation; dietary fiber properties; fermentability; gelling; molecular weight; viscosity; weight management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Appetite / drug effects*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fiber* / analysis
  • Dietary Fiber* / pharmacology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Energy Intake / drug effects*
  • Fermentation
  • Gels
  • Humans
  • Molecular Weight
  • Viscosity


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Gels