Background: Irritable bowel syndrome remains the commonest reason for referral to a gastroenterology clinic. Patients with irritable bowel syndrome are frequently advised to increase their intake of bran fibre, despite inconclusive experimental evidence of benefit.
Methods: The effect of dietary supplementation with a bolus of bran fibre (12 g/day) was studied in a block-randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study of 80 patients with irritable bowel syndrome referred to a District General Hospital outpatient clinic. Comparison of the benefits of bran and placebo was based upon personal assessment of individual and overall symptom profiles, determined from a simple daily symptom score and post-treatment interview.
Results: Overall symptomatic improvement was reported with bran by 52% and with placebo by 54% of patients. Bran supplementation was no more effective than placebo in improving individual symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and for wind-related symptoms it was significantly less effective (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Dietary supplementation with bran is of no value in the treatment of patients with irritable bowel syndrome referred to a hospital clinic.