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Keywords:

  • Dietary fiber;
  • Experimental colitis;
  • Inflammatory bowel disease;
  • Prebiotic;
  • Review;
  • Short-chain fatty acid

Abstract

The chronic idiopathic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), namely Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, appear to be derived from an inappropriate reaction towards a luminal agent, most probably driven by the intestinal microflora, which upregulates the synthesis and release of different pro-inflammatory mediators, thus contributing to tissue damage that characterizes these intestinal conditions. Several studies have reported that IBD is associated with impairment in short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production, mainly acetate, propionate, and butyrate. They are produced in the large bowel by anaerobic bacterial fermentation of undigested dietary carbohydrates and fiber polysaccharides, with butyrate being considered as the major fuel source for colonocytes. These SCFAs have been proposed to play a key role in the maintenance of colonic homeostasis. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider therapeutic approaches that increase colonic SCFA production, as it can be achieved by administration of dietary fiber to IBD patients. Unfortunately, there is quite limited documentation of efficacy of dietary fiber in properly designed trials. This review discusses the rationale, available evidence for the use of dietary fiber and its mechanisms of action in the treatment and prevention of IBDs.