Dietary fiber decreases the metabolizable energy content and nutrient digestibility of mixed diets fed to humans

J Nutr. 1997 Apr;127(4):579-86. doi: 10.1093/jn/127.4.579.


Food labeling regulations implemented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration emphasize nutrient composition and energy content of foods. Dietary energy and digestibility of complex foods can be affected by the content and type of dietary fiber. The metabolizable energy (ME) content and apparent digestibility of dietary fiber in human diets are difficult to assess. Fiber can affect the digestibility of fat and protein and, subsequently, the ME content of the diet. This study was conducted to measure the ME content of nine diets with different fat and fiber concentrations. Diets varied in level of fat (18, 34 or 47% of energy) and level of total dietary fiber (3, 4 or 7% of diet dry matter) and were consumed for 2 wk. Subjects (n = 17) consumed three diets (14 d for each diet) containing different levels of fiber and one level of fat. Food consumption was measured and all urine and feces were collected during a 5-d period. Combustible energy, protein, fat, total dietary fiber (TDF) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) were measured in composite samples of food and feces, and urine was analyzed for combustible energy and nitrogen. Metabolizable energy and apparent digestibility coefficients were calculated. Overall, increasing fiber intake decreased fat and protein digestibility. As a consequence of these interactions, the ME content of the diets decreased as fiber intake increased, and TDF and NDF had similar effects on the ME value. A published empirical formula accurately predicted the ME content of diets using either TDF or NDF.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Digestion / drug effects*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Fiber