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Fermentation of starch stimulates propagated contractions in the human colon


Address for Correspondence
Bernard Flourié, Centre Hospitalier Lyon-Sud, Service d’Hépato-gastroentérologie, 69495 Pierre Benite Cedex, France.
Tel: +33 4 78 86 16 89; fax: +33 4 78 86 31 80;


Background  In healthy humans, up to 30 g of daily ingested starch escape small intestinal digestion, and are fermented in the colon. This physiological starch malabsorption could modify colonic motility through metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids produced by fermentation.

Methods  Ten healthy volunteers swallowed a probe, consisting of an infusion catheter, six perfused catheters and a balloon connected to a barostat. On two consecutive days colonic motility was recorded in fasting subjects in the basal state (1 h), and then during (3 h), and after (2 h) the intracolonic infusion of 750 mL of isoosmotic and isovolumetric solutions containing sodium chloride with or without 15 g wheat starch. We determined (i) the volume of hydrogen and methane exhaled in breath, (ii) a global motility index and the number of high amplitude propagated contractions (HAPCs), and (iii) the mean balloon volume, reflecting the tonic motor activity.

Key Results  [median (IQR)] Compared to the basal period, colonic infusion of starch or saline did not modify the colonic motility index and tone. However, the number of HAPCs was significantly higher during and after infusion of starch than of saline [4.5 (2.75–6.5) vs 0.96 (0–2.66)/5 h, starch vs saline respectively; = 0.011].

Conclusions & Inferences  In healthy humans, colonic fermentation of a physiological malabsorbed amount of starch has no effect on the tonic and phasic colonic motor activities, but produces a significant increase in the number of HAPCs. This may participate in the physiological propulsion of colonic contents.