British Journal of Nutrition

Lower Gut Digestion

The effect of resistant starch on colon function in humans

J. Tomlina1 and N. W. Reada1

a1 Sub-department of Human Gastrointestinal Physiology and Nutrition, Floor K, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield SIO 2JF


Starch that is resistant to human amylases forms during the cooking and subsequent cooling of some foods, and may therefore be a substrate for the bacterial flora of the colon. It is thus possible that resistant starch (RS) will affect colon function in a similar manner to non-starch polysaccharides. To test this theory, a group of eight volunteers took two diet supplements for 1 week each in a random order with a 1 week separation. One supplement comprised mainly 350 g Cornflakes/d and the other 380 g Rice Krispies/d, providing 10.33 and 0.86 g RS/.d respectively. The amounts of amylase-digestible starch, non-starch polysaccharides, total carbohydrate, energy, protein and fat were balanced between the two periods by giving small amounts of Casilan, wheat bran, butter and boiled sweets. The volunteers made faecal collections during day 3 to day 7 of each period. Whole-gut transit time was calculated using the continuous method. Stool consistency and ease of defaecation were assessed by the volunteers. All episodes of flatulence noticed were recorded in a diary, along with food intake. Serial breath hydrogen measurements were made at 15 min intervals for 8 h on day 1 of each supplement. Questionnaires regarding colon function were completed at the end of each dietary period. There were no significant differences in the stool mass, frequency or consistency, ease of defaecations, transit time or flatulence experienced during the two supplements (P > 0.05). Significantly more H2 (area under curve) was produced while eating Cornflakes than Rice Krispies (P < 0.05). The difference of 9.47 g RS/d between the two diets was over three times the calculated normal daily RS intake of 2.76 g/d. As the only significant difference observed was in the breath H2 excretion on day 1, we suggest that either RS is rapidly and completely fermented to end-products including H2 gas, which is subsequently excreted via the lungs and has little influence on colon function, or that bacterial adaptation removed any observable effect on faecal mass and transit time by day 3.

(Received November 23 1989)

(Accepted May 16 1990)