Effects of cereal fibers on short-chain fatty acids in healthy subjects and patients: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

Food Funct. 2021 Aug 2;12(15):7040-7053. doi: 10.1039/d1fo00858g.


Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are involved in the regulation of a wide array of diseases. However, the effect of cereal dietary fibers on SCFA production remains unclear. We reviewed relevant clinical studies between 1950 and 2021 and aimed to evaluate the effect of cereal fiber consumption on SCFA production in healthy subjects and patients. PubMed, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library databases were used for systematically searching published relevant trials with adults and a minimum intervention duration of 2 weeks. The effect size was estimated using standardized mean difference (SMD) and 95% confidence interval (CI). Of the 555 identified studies, 14 intervention groups involving 205 participants aged between 20 and 69 years are eligible. The results of meta-analysis revealed that cereal fiber supplementation significantly increased acetate [SMD: 0.86, 95% CI (0.46, 1.25), p < 0.0001], propionate [SMD: 0.48, 95% CI: (0.15, 0.81), p = 0.004], butyrate [SMD: 0.61, 95% CI: (0.20, 1.01), p = 0.003], and total SCFA [SMD, 0.96, 95% CI: (0.54, 1.39), p < 0.00001] concentrations. Subgroup analysis suggested that a long intervention duration (>4 weeks) significantly promoted acetate and propionate production, whereas a short intervention duration (≤4 weeks) significantly facilitated butyrate production. Cereal fiber supplementation had a more significant impact on overweight and obese subjects with body mass index (BMI) >29 kg m-2 than on individuals with BMI ≤29 kg m-2. Furthermore, we found that cereal fibers and wheat/rye arabinoxylan oligosaccharides, rather than wheat bran fibers, barley fibers, and barley β-glucan, could significantly elevate the SCFA concentration. Overall, our meta-analysis demonstrated that cereal fiber supplementation is helpful in increasing the SCFA concentration, which provided strong proof for the beneficial role of cereal fibers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Diet*
  • Edible Grain*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Young Adult


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile