The mechanism by which non-digestible fibres improve oral glucose tolerance is still unclear. We have studied the effects of guar gum on oral carbohydrate tolerance and intestinal absorption of nutrients in anaesthetized rats. Addition of guar to an intragastric glucose load (1 g/kg) markedly delayed the rise in plasma glucose levels when the concentration of the gum was adequate (10 mg/ml). The insulin response was somewhat less marked, but the differences were not significant. When glucose was introduced directly into the duodenum, the gum only slightly reduced the rise in glucose levels, during the first 15 min. If sucrose (1 g/kg) was infused in the duodenum, acarboseR, an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor, but not guar, slowed the rise in plasma glucose and insulin levels. Intestinal absorption was measured in a tied duodenojejunal loop. Guar decreased active transport of glucose (4 mmol/l) by approximately 20%, but had no significant effect on the passive transport of glucose (100 mmol/l), nor on the absorption of sucrose (40 mmol/l) or leucine (4 mmol/l). At the concentration which improved glucose tolerance (10 mg/ml), but not at lower concentrations, guar gum markedly slowed gastric emptying. These results suggest that guar gum improves tolerance to oral carbohydrates mainly by decreasing the rate of gastric emptying, but inhibition of intestinal absorption may also be involved in the presence of low concentrations of the sugars.