British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Tolerance to low-digestible carbohydrates: symptomatology and methods

Philippe Marteaua1 c1 and Bernard Flouriéa2

a1 Gastroenterology Department, European Hospital Georges Pompidou, 75015 Paris, France

a2 Gastroenterology Department, Centre hospitalier Lyon-Sud, 165 chemin du Grand Revoyet, 69495 Pierre Bénite, France


Low-digestible carbohydrates (LDCs) are incompletely or not absorbed in the small bowel and fermented in the colon. They are usually well tolerated but may also have some dose-related undesirable effects due to their natural osmotic potential and/or excessive fermentation: borborygmi, excessive flatus, bloating, abdominal cramps and eventually diarrhoea. There is an important intersubject variability in the tolerance to LDCs because of differences in absorption capacity, motility pattern, colonic response and intestinal sensitivity. There is also a great intrasubject variability, depending on the type of LDC, dosage and type of consumption. Absorption of LDC in the small intestine can be assessed using hydrogen breath test or intubation techniques or analysis of ileostomy effluents. Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are required to assess the subjective symptoms of intolerance, and the experimental conditions may influence the results.


c1 * Corresponding author: Philippe Marteau, fax + 33 1 44396799, email