Dietary fibre in gastrointestinal health and disease

Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021 Feb;18(2):101-116. doi: 10.1038/s41575-020-00375-4. Epub 2020 Nov 18.


Epidemiological studies have consistently demonstrated the benefits of dietary fibre on gastrointestinal health through consumption of unrefined whole foods, such as wholegrains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Mechanistic studies and clinical trials on isolated and extracted fibres have demonstrated promising regulatory effects on the gut (for example, digestion and absorption, transit time, stool formation) and microbial effects (changes in gut microbiota composition and fermentation metabolites) that have important implications for gastrointestinal disorders. In this Review, we detail the major physicochemical properties and functional characteristics of dietary fibres, the importance of dietary fibres and current evidence for their use in the management of gastrointestinal disorders. It is now well-established that the physicochemical properties of different dietary fibres (such as solubility, viscosity and fermentability) vary greatly depending on their origin and processing and are important determinants of their functional characteristics and clinical utility. Although progress in understanding these relationships has uncovered potential therapeutic opportunities for dietary fibres, many clinical questions remain unanswered such as clarity on the optimal dose, type and source of fibre required in both the management of clinical symptoms and the prevention of gastrointestinal disorders. The use of novel fibres and/or the co-administration of fibres is an additional therapeutic approach yet to be extensively investigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Constipation / diet therapy
  • Diarrhea / diet therapy
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fiber / therapeutic use
  • Diverticular Diseases / diet therapy
  • Fermentation
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Transit*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diet therapy
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diet therapy
  • Micronutrients / metabolism*
  • Prebiotics
  • Solubility
  • Viscosity


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Micronutrients
  • Prebiotics