Soluble fibre supplementation with and without a probiotic in adults with asthma: A 7-day randomised, double blind, three way cross-over trial

EBioMedicine. 2019 Aug:46:473-485. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2019.07.048. Epub 2019 Jul 31.


Background: Soluble fibre modulates airway inflammation in animal models. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of soluble fibre supplementation, with and without a probiotic, on plasma short chain fatty acids (SCFA), airway inflammation, asthma control and gut microbiome in adults with asthma.

Methods: A randomised, double-blinded, placebo controlled 3-way cross-over trial in 17 subjects with stable asthma at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, Australia. Subjects received 3 × 7 day oral interventions in random order; soluble fibre (inulin 12 g/day), soluble fibre + probiotic (inulin 12 g/day + multi-strain probiotic >25 billion CFU) and placebo. Plasma SCFA, sputum cell counts and inflammatory gene expression, asthma control gut microbiota, adverse events including gastrointestinal symptoms were measured.

Findings: There was no difference in change in total plasma SCFA levels (μmol/L) in the placebo versus soluble fibre (Δmedian [95% CI] 16·3 [-16·9, 49·5], p = 0·335) or soluble fibre+probiotic (18·7 [-14·5, 51·9], p = 0·325) group. Following the soluble fibre intervention there was an improvement in the asthma control questionnaire (ACQ6) (∆median (IQR) -0·35 (-0·5, -0·13), p = 0·006), sputum %eosinophils decreased (-1.0 (-2·5, 0), p = 0·006) and sputum histone deacetylase 9 (HDAC9) gene expression decreased (-0.49 (-0.83, -0.27) 2-ΔCt, p = .008). Individual bacterial operational taxonomic units changed following both inulin and inulin+probiotic arms.

Interpretation: Soluble fibre supplementation for 7 days in adults with asthma did not change SCFA levels. Within group analysis showed improvements in airway inflammation, asthma control and gut microbiome composition following inulin supplementation and these changes warrant further investigation, in order to evaluate the potential of soluble fibre as a non-pharmacological addition to asthma management. FUND: John Hunter Hospital Charitable Trust.

Keywords: Asthma; Free fatty acid receptors; Histone deacetylases; Inflammation; Inulin; SCFAs; Soluble fibre.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asthma / blood
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Biomarkers
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Fiber*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / blood
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Probiotics* / administration & dosage
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile