1. The effect of addition of guar gum (5 and 10 g/l) to a radiolabelled, homogenized, baked-bean test meal on the distribution of that meal in the gastrointestinal tract was investigated in groups of male rats killed at 25, 50, 100, 200, 300 and 400 min after gavage.
2. Addition of 5 and 10 g guar gum/l significantly increased the proportion of the meal remaining in the stomach at 25 and 50 min after gavage (P <0·01).
3. The heads of the control meal and meals containing guar gum reached the distal small intestine within 25 min after gavage but radioactivity was not observed in the caecum until 100 min after administration of each of the meals. Addition of guar gum (5 and 10 g/l) delayed caecal filling even though the head of each meal reached the caecum at the same time after gavage.
4. The geometric centres of guar-gum-containing meals were proximal to that of the control meal at all times after gavage.
5. The observed delay in the passage of a guar-gum-containing meal through the stomach and small intestine is probably due to the viscous nature of the meal resisting the propulsive and mixing effects of the gastrointestinal contractions, thereby reducing access of the glucose to the absorptive epithelium. This could contribute to the observed reductions in postprandial glycaemia seen in previous studies after incorporating guar gum into a meal.