Nondigestible carbohydrates (NDCs) are food components, including nonstarch polysaccharides and resistant starches. Many NDCs are classified as dietary fibers by the US FDA. Because of their beneficial effects on human health and product development, NDCs are widely used in the food supply. Although there are dietary intake recommendations for total dietary fiber, there are no such recommendations for individual NDCs. NDCs are heterogeneous in their chemical composition and physicochemical properties—characteristics that contribute to their tolerable intake levels. Guidance on tolerable intake levels of different NDCs is needed because overconsumption can lead to undesirable gastrointestinal side effects, further widening the gap between actual and suggested fiber intake levels. In this review, we synthesize the literature on gastrointestinal effects of NDCs that the FDA accepts as dietary fibers (β-glucan, pectin, arabinoxylan, guar gum, alginate, psyllium husk, inulin, fructooligosaccharides and oligofructose, galactooligosaccharides, polydextrose, cellulose, soy fiber, resistant maltodextrin/dextrin) and present tolerable intake dose recommendations for their consumption. We summarized the findings from 103 clinical trials in adults without gastrointestinal disease who reported gastrointestinal effects, including tolerance (e.g., bloating, flatulence, borborygmi/rumbling) and function (e.g., transit time, stool frequency, stool consistency). These studies provided doses ranging from 0.75–160 g/d and lasted for durations ranging from a single-meal tolerance test to 28 wk. Tolerance was NDC specific; thus, recommendations ranged from 3.75 g/d for alginate to 25 g/d for soy fiber. Future studies should address gaps in the literature by testing a wider range of NDC doses and consumption forms (solid compared with liquid). Furthermore, future investigations should also adopt a standard protocol to examine tolerance and functional outcomes across studies consistently.
This work was supported by the IAFNS Carbohydrates Committee.