1. The breakdown and faecal bulking capacity of dietary fibre preparations from wheat bran, apple, cabbage, carrot, and guar gum were compared in man and rat.
2. The degradation of the fibre showed good correlation between man and rat (r 0.99, regression coefficient 0.86). Wheat bran was the least well-digested, 66 and 59% of the neutral sugars being excreted in faeces of man and rat respectively. The breakdown of the fibre in apple, cabbage, carrot and guar gum was more complete and 4–29% of the neutral sugars were recovered in faeces.
3. The main dietary fibre constituents in each preparation were degraded to a similar extent in man and rat. The main dietary fibre constituents of apple, carrot, cabbage and guar gum were almost completely degraded. Of the xylose in wheat bran 45% (man) and 48% (rat) were recovered in faeces. However, the percentage excretion of glucose and arabinose from bran was higher in man.
4. A faecal glucan other than cellulose was identified in human faeces after guar gum, and has been provisionally identified as starch. No such glucan occurred in rat faeces.
5. A good correlation between the faecal bulking capacity in man and rat was seen (r 0.97, regression coefficient 0.56). Wheat bran had the best bulking capacity, while that of apple, cabbage, carrot and guar gum was less pronounced. Faecal bulking was inversely related to the amount of fibre which was water-soluble in each preparation.
6. It is concluded that this rat experimental model is useful for the prediction of fermentative breakdown and bulking capacity of dietary fibre in man. However, more comparative studies are needed to evaluate animal experiments regarding other physiological effects of dietary fibre.