Fructans Exacerbate Symptoms in a Subset of Children With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Feb;16(2):219-225.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.09.043. Epub 2017 Sep 29.


Background & aims: Dietary fructans exacerbate symptoms in some, but not all, adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). We sought to determine whether fructans worsen symptoms in children with IBS and whether clinical and psychosocial factors, and/or gas production, can identify those who are fructan sensitive.

Methods: We performed a double-blind placebo-controlled (maltodextrin) cross-over trial of 23 children with IBS, based on pediatric Rome III criteria, from September 2014 through December 2016. At baseline, participants completed 1-week pain and stool diaries and a 3-day food record and psychosocial factors (depression, anxiety, and somatization) were measured. Subjects were randomly assigned to groups that were provided meals for 72 hours containing either fructans or maltodextrin (0.5 g/kg; maximum, 19 g). Following a washout period of 10 days or more, the subjects received the meal they were not given during the first study period (crossed over). Gastrointestinal symptoms and breath hydrogen and methane production were captured during each meal period. Fructan sensitivity was defined as an increase of 30% or more in abdominal pain frequency following fructan ingestion.

Results: Subjects had more mean episodes of abdominal pain/day during the fructan-containing diet (3.4 ± 2.6) vs the maltodextrin-containing diet (2.4 ± 1.7) (P < .01), along with more severe bloating (P < .05) and flatulence (P = .01). Hydrogen (but not methane) production was greater while subjects were on the fructan-containing diet (617 ± 305 ppm∗h) than the maltodextrin-containing diet (136 ± 78 ppm*h) (P < .001). Eighteen subjects (78.2%) had more frequent abdominal pain while on the fructan-containing diet and 12 (52.2%) qualified as fructan sensitive. We found no difference between fructan-sensitive and fructan-insensitive subjects in baseline abdominal pain or bowel movement characteristics, dietary intake, psychosocial parameters, IBS subtype, or gas production.

Conclusions: In a randomized controlled trial of children with IBS, we found fructans to exacerbate several symptoms. However, fructan sensitivity cannot be identified based on baseline gastrointestinal symptoms, dietary intake, psychosocial factors, or gas production. no: NCT02842281.

Keywords: FODMAP; Fructooligosaccharide; Intolerance; Inulin.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Breath Tests
  • Child
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diarrhea / chemically induced
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Fructans / administration & dosage*
  • Fructans / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / pathology*
  • Male
  • Methane / analysis
  • Pain / chemically induced
  • Placebos / administration & dosage
  • Polysaccharides / administration & dosage
  • Polysaccharides / adverse effects


  • Fructans
  • Placebos
  • Polysaccharides
  • maltodextrin
  • Hydrogen
  • Methane

Associated data