Dietary Fiber and Gastrointestinal Disease: an Evolving Story

  • John O’GradyEmail author
  • Fergus Shanahan
Invited Commentary


Denis Burkitt, working in Africa in the 1970s, was one of the first to suggest a link between a diet deficient in fiber and gastrointestinal disease [1, 2]. While initially embraced by gastroenterologists and applied to a diversity of gastrointestinal ailments, subsequent studies were discouraging, could not confirm many of the putative clinical benefits of fiber, and enthusiasm waned [3]. This was, in part, due to simplistic concepts of fiber-related health benefits which are being supplanted with enhanced understanding of the physiological properties of different types of fiber. For example, the solubility, viscosity, and fermentation properties of fiber are now known to be determinants of the favorable impact of fiber on host metabolism [4]. Moreover, advances in microbiome science have affirmed the importance of gut microbiota in fiber fermentation and host metabolism [5]. It seems likely that, in the future, the efficacy criteria for assessing fiber supplements will be...



The authors are funded in part by Science Foundation Ireland (APC/SFI/12/RC/2273) in the form of a research center, APC Microbiome Ireland.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

John O'Grady is funded through APC Microbiome Ireland. Fergus Shanahan is a co-founder, shareholder in Atlantia Food Clinical Trials, 4D Pharma Cork Ltd., Alimentary Health Ltd. He is the director of the APC Microbiome Ireland, a research center funded in part by Science Foundation Ireland (APC/SFI/12/RC/2273).

Ashley Thomas, Silvio de Melo Jr., and Bruno Ribeiro declare no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine and APC Microbiome IrelandUniversity College Cork, National University of IrelandCorkIreland

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