Prebiotics alter bacterial content in the colon, and therefore could be useful for obesity management. We investigated the changes following addition of inulin oligofructose (IO) in the food of rats fed either a corn starch (C) diet or a high-carbohydrate, high-fat (H) diet as a model of diet-induced metabolic syndrome. IO did not affect food intake, but reduced body weight gain by 5·3 and 12·3 % in corn starch+inulin oligofructose (CIO) and high-carbohydrate, high-fat with inulin oligofructose (HIO) rats, respectively. IO reduced plasma concentrations of free fatty acids by 26·2 % and TAG by 75·8 % in HIO rats. IO increased faecal output by 93·2 %, faecal lipid excretion by 37·9 % and weight of caecum by 23·4 % and colon by 41·5 % in HIO rats. IO improved ileal morphology by reducing inflammation and improving the density of crypt cells in HIO rats. IO attenuated H diet-induced increases in abdominal fat pads (C 275 (sem 19), CIO 264 (sem 40), H 688 (sem 55), HIO 419 (sem 32) mg/mm tibial length), fasting blood glucose concentrations (C 4·5 (sem 0·1), CIO 4·2 (sem 0·1), H 5·2 (sem 0·1), HIO 4·3 (sem 0·1) mmol/l), systolic blood pressure (C 124 (sem 2), CIO 118 (sem 2), H 152 (sem 2), HIO 123 (sem 3) mmHg), left ventricular diastolic stiffness (C 22·9 (sem 0·6), CIO 22·9 (sem 0·5), H 27·8 (sem 0·5), HIO 22·6 (sem 1·2)) and plasma alanine transaminase (C 29·6 (sem 2·8), CIO 32·1 (sem 3·0), H 43·9 (sem 2·6), HIO 33·6 (sem 2·0) U/l). IO attenuated H-induced increases in inflammatory cell infiltration in the heart and liver, lipid droplets in the liver and plasma lipids as well as impaired glucose and insulin tolerance. These results suggest that increasing soluble fibre intake with IO improves signs of the metabolic syndrome by decreasing gastrointestinal carbohydrate and lipid uptake.