Effect of chicory inulin-type fructan-containing snack bars on the human gut microbiota in low dietary fiber consumers in a randomized crossover trial

Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Jun 1;111(6):1286-1296. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa074.


Background: The low intake of dietary fiber compared to recommended amounts has been referred to as the dietary fiber gap. The addition of fiber to snack foods could favorably alter gut microbiota and help individuals meet intake recommendations.

Objectives: Our objective was to examine the effect of low- and moderate-dose fiber-containing snack bars, comprising mainly chicory root inulin-type fructans (ITF), on gut microbiota in healthy adults with habitual low dietary fiber intake using 16S ribosomal RNA-based approaches.

Methods: In 2 separate 4-wk, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover trials, 50 healthy adults with low dietary fiber intake were randomly assigned to receive isocaloric snack bars of either moderate-dose fiber (7 g/d) or control in Trial 1 (n = 25) or low-dose fiber (3 g/d) or control in Trial 2 (n = 25), with 4-wk washout periods. Fecal microbiota composition and inferred function, fecal SCFA concentration, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, dietary intake, and quality of life were measured.

Results: Compared with the control group, the moderate-dose group showed significant differences across multiple microbial taxa, most notably an increased relative abundance of the Bifidobacterium genus from (mean ± SEM) 5.3% ± 5.9% to 18.7% ± 15.0%. With low-dose ITF, significant increases in Bifidobacterium were no longer present after correction for multiple comparisons but targeted analysis with qPCR showed a significant increase in Bifidobacterium. Predictive functional profiling identified changes in predicted function after intake of the moderate- but not the low-dose bar. Fecal SCFAs were affected by time but not treatment. There were no between-group differences in GI symptoms. Importantly, fiber intake increased significantly with the moderate- and low-dose bars.

Conclusions: In healthy adults, adding 3 or 7 g ITF to snack bars increased Bifidobacterium, a beneficial member of the gut microbial community. The addition of ITF to food products could help reduce the dietary fiber gap prevalent in modern life.This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT03042494.

Keywords: crossover trial; fiber gap; gut microbiota; inulin/oligofructose; prebiotics; short-chain fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Chicory / chemistry*
  • Chicory / metabolism
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Fiber / analysis
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Inulin / analysis
  • Inulin / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Extracts / analysis
  • Plant Extracts / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Snacks
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Plant Extracts
  • Inulin

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03042494