Dietary fiber is a widely recognized nutrient for human health. Previous studies proved that dietary fiber has significant implications for gastrointestinal health by regulating the gut microbiota. Moreover, mechanistic research showed that the physiological functions of different dietary fibers depend to a great extent on their physicochemical characteristics, one of which is solubility. Compared with insoluble dietary fiber, soluble dietary fiber can be easily accessed and metabolized by fiber-degrading microorganisms in the intestine and produce a series of beneficial and functional metabolites. In this review, we outlined the structures, characteristics, and physiological functions of soluble dietary fibers as important nutrients. We particularly focused on the effects of soluble dietary fiber on human health via regulating the gut microbiota and reviewed their effects on dietary and clinical interventions.
Keywords: gut microbiota; human health; resistant oligosaccharide; soluble dietary fiber; viscous fiber.