Inadequate dietary fiber intake contributes to irregular bowel movements and may contribute to difficulty with defecation in children. Whole grain foods, such as oatmeal, may improve stool consistency and stool frequency in children; however, no studies have examined its effects. The purpose of this study was to investigate if 2 weeks of oatmeal consumption in children (ages 7-12 years) increases stool frequency, improves stool consistency, and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. In this single-arm intervention study, children who reported ≤5 bowel movements per week during screening, consumed two servings of instant oatmeal daily for 2 weeks. The primary outcome was stool frequency and secondary outcomes included stool consistency and GI symptoms. Participants recorded bowel movements daily, food intake, and GI symptoms during baseline and 2 intervention weeks. Photos of the children's stool were taken at three timepoints during the study to assess stool consistency. In total, 33 children (15 female and 18 male) completed the study. Linear mixed models were used to detect change between baseline and the intervention weeks and accounted for repeated measures within subjects. No statistical differences in stool frequency or consistency were observed between the intervention weeks vs. baseline; however, dietary fiber intake significantly increased during the 2 weeks of oatmeal consumption (P = .008). The addition of oatmeal to children's diets is an effective way to increase fiber consumption and may reduce some GI symptoms such as gas, straining, and feeling of incomplete evacuation. Trial identification number: NCT02868515.
Keywords: dietary fiber; gastrointestinal health; oatmeal; stool consistency; stool frequency; whole grain.