Mechanisms by which wheat bran and oat bran increase stool weight in humans

Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Sep;68(3):711-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/68.3.711.


Generally, stool weight is significantly increased by adding sources of insoluble fiber to the diet. Comparable amounts of fiber provided by wheat and oat brans have the same effect on daily stool output, even though > 90% of wheat bran fiber but only 50-60% of oat bran fiber is insoluble. To determine the bases for these increases in stool weight, stool samples collected from 5 men in 2 constant diet studies that determined the effects of wheat and oat brans on large-bowel physiology were fractionated by using a physicochemical procedure into plant, bacterial, and soluble fractions, which were weighed and analyzed for sugar content and composition. Nitrogen, crude fat, and ash outputs were also determined. Wheat bran increased the fecal concentration of sugars and mass of plant material more than did oat bran, whereas oat bran increased fecal bacterial mass more. Each fiber source increased nitrogen, ash, and fat excretion, but excretion of fat was greater with oat bran. The apparent digestibility of plant-derived neutral sugars decreased significantly when wheat but not oat bran was consumed. The apparent digestibility of neutral sugars provided by wheat bran was 56%; the apparent digestibility of those provided by oat bran was 96%. We conclude that bacteria and lipids are major contributors to the increase in stool weight with oat bran consumption, whereas undigested plant fiber is responsible for much of the increase in stool weight with wheat bran consumption. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that oat bran increases stool weight by providing rapidly fermented soluble fiber in the proximal colon for bacterial growth, which is sustained until excretion by fermentation of the insoluble fiber.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Avena / metabolism*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Carbohydrates / analysis
  • Colon / physiology*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Digestion
  • Feces* / chemistry
  • Feces* / microbiology
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Triticum / metabolism*


  • Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fiber