British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Tolerance of low-digestible carbohydrates: a general view

Geoffrey Livesey c1

a1 Independent Nutrition Logic, Pealerswell House, Bellrope Lane, Wymondham, Norfolk, NR18 0QX, UK


The tolerance of low-digestible carbohydrates (LDCs) may be measured as the potential to cause abdominal symptoms and laxation. Tolerance of any one LDC is determined by its concentration in the food product eaten, the amount of the food product eaten, the frequency of eating the food and the consumption of other foods (increasing tolerance) and water (decreasing tolerance). Added to these, individuals vary considerably in their response to low-digestible carbohydrates in the reporting of gastrointestinal symptoms. A precise maximum no-response dose is sometimes difficult to obtain because some dose–response curves are distinctly sigmoidal. Food regulators hoping to set a trigger level at which laxation may occur have been unable to take account of all these factors because the necessary information matrices are not available for any one LDC. Nevertheless analysis of the data shows consistent trends and for circumstances when food is consumed throughout the day it now seems feasible to assign specific tolerances to specific low-digestible carbohydrates, especially the polyols for which most is known. The method by which the no-effect dose or laxative threshold is expressed is critical to its application to individual foods.


c1 * Corresponding author: G. Livesey, fax +44 (0)1953 600218, email