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Of all non-digestible carbohydrates, the scientific community is paying special attention to resistant starches (RS) that reach the colon intact, where they are subsequently metabolized via gut bacteria. Their benefits for host health may range from affecting insulin’s control of blood sugar and weight to slowing down chronic kidney disease progression and they likely arise from a multitude of mechanisms that are poorly understood. So far, however, studies determining the gut microbiota’s contribution to the health benefits of fermentable fibers are lacking.

A new study, led by Dr. Thomas M. Schmidt from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, USA), explored the gut microbiota’s capacity for producing short-chain fatty acids through using different fermentable fibers.

The researchers supplemented the habitual diets of 174 healthy young adults for 2 weeks with different types of fermentable fibers: resistant starch from potatoes (n = 43), resistant starch from maize (n = 43) and inulin from chicory root (n = 49). A rapidly digestible corn starch was used in the control group (n = 39). Changes in gut microbiota composition were assessed using 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid gene sequencing and the function of the colon’s bacterial communities was explored by quantifying fecal SCFA concentrations before and during dietary supplementation.

Although all three fermentable fibers changed participants’ fecal microbiota from baseline, potato starch led to the greatest increase in SCFAs.

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