Effects of dietary fibers on short-chain fatty acids and gut microbiota composition in healthy adults: a systematic review


  • V. Vinelli
  • P. Biscotti
  • D. Martini
  • C. Del Bo'
  • M. Marino
  • T. Meroño
  • O. Nikoloudaki
  • F.M. Calabrese
  • S. Turroni
  • V. Taverniti
  • A. Unión Caballero
  • C. Andrés-Lacueva
  • M. Porrini
  • M. Gobbetti
  • M. De Angelis
  • P. Brigidi
  • M. Pinart
  • K. Nimptsch
  • S. Guglielmetti
  • P. Riso


  • Nutrients


  • Nutrients 14 (13): 2559


  • There is an increasing interest in investigating dietary strategies able to modulate the gut microbial ecosystem which, in turn, may play a key role in human health. Dietary fibers (DFs) are widely recognized as molecules with prebiotic effects. The main objective of this systematic review was to: (i) analyze the results available on the impact of DF intervention on short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) production; (ii) evaluate the interplay between the type of DF intervention, the gut microbiota composition and its metabolic activities, and any other health associated outcome evaluated in the host. To this aim, initially, a comprehensive database of literature on human intervention studies assessing the effect of confirmed and candidate prebiotics on the microbial ecosystem was developed. Subsequently, studies performed on DFs and analyzing at least the impact on SCFA levels were extracted from the database. A total of 44 studies from 42 manuscripts were selected for the analysis. Among the different types of fiber, inulin was the DF investigated the most (n = 11). Regarding the results obtained on the ability of fiber to modulate total SCFAs, seven studies reported a significant increase, while no significant changes were reported in five studies, depending on the analytical methodology used. A total of 26 studies did not show significant differences in individual SCFAs, while the others reported significant differences for one or more SCFAs. The effect of DF interventions on the SCFA profile seemed to be strictly dependent on the dose and the type and structure of DFs. Overall, these results underline that, although affecting microbiota composition and derived metabolites, DFs do not produce univocal significant increase in SCFA levels in apparently healthy adults. In this regard, several factors (i.e., related to the study protocols and analytical methods) have been identified that could have affected the results obtained in the studies evaluated. Future studies are needed to better elucidate the relationship between DFs and gut microbiota in terms of SCFA production and impact on health-related markers.