The availability of fermentable carbohydrates could influence the digestive degradation and disposal of blood urea. The effects of a poorly fermented cellulosic oat fiber, a soluble fermentable fiber (gum arabic) or one of two oligosaccharides (fructooligosaccharide or xylooligosaccharide) on nitrogen excretion were compared with a wheat starch-based control diet in male Wistar rats. The fibers and oligosaccharides were added to the semipurified diets at 7.5 g/100 g in place of wheat starch. The diets contained 13 g casein/100 g. Oat fiber did not cause an enlargement of the cecum. In contrast, gum arabic and the oligosaccharides elicited a 35-60% enlargement of the cecal wall and a 2 to 2.6-fold mean increase in the cecal pool of short chain fatty acids. Compared with rats fed the oat fiber-based diet, urea flux from blood to cecum was nearly 50% greater and more than 120% greater in those fed the gum arabic and oligosaccharide diets, respectively. In those groups, net nitrogen retention in the cecum more than doubled (nitrogen retention was calculated as the difference between net urea nitrogen flux into the cecum and ammonia nitrogen reabsorption). As a percentage of total excreted nitrogen, fecal nitrogen was 20% in the oat fiber group and 27-29% in the gum arabic and oligosaccharide groups, compared with only 10% in fiber-free controls. Results indicate that under these dietary conditions, the addition of oligosaccharides to the diet induced a 20 to 30% decrease in blood urea and renal and renal nitrogen excretion relative to the control, indicating a potential for oligosaccharide diet therapy in chronic renal disease.