1. The extent of utilization of α-amylase (EC 188.8.131.52)-resistant retrograded starches in vivo was assessed in male Wistar rats (about 100 g body-weight). All animals were given a fibre-free semi-synthetic basal diet (SS) containing sucrose as the only carbohydrate source, ad lib., for 13 d. On day 14, after an overnight fast, rats were allocated to one of five dietary treatments (n 30):1, fibre-free basal SS diet; 2-5, basal SS diet supplemented with 100 g sucrose, Solka floc (cellulose), resistant maize starch (RCS) or resistant pea (Pisum sativum) starch (RPS)/kg diet. Animals allocated to each dietary treatment were divided into three groups of ten rats which were given the appropriate diet for 8 or 9, 17 or 18 and 29 or 30 d (8/9, 17/18 or 29/30 d groups respectively). Rats were fed on 12 g diet/d (treatment 1) or 13.2 g diet/d (treatments 2-5) for the first 20 d, and 14 or 15.4 g/d respectively until the end of the experiment. Rats fed on the supplemented basal diets were thus given 10% more food to allow for the addition of the test carbohydrate. Faecal carbohydrate excretion was determined at intervals in the 17/18 d groups. At the end of each experimental period animals were killed after consuming their daily food ration and small intestinal length, weight of caecal and ileal contents and tissue, and pH of caecal contents measured. The amount of carbohydrate in the caecal and ileal contents from the 8/9 and 17/18 d groups was determined.
2. Weights of ileal and caecal contents, caecal tissue and faecal output were significantly greater at all time points for rats fed on the resistant starches compared with those fed on basal and sucrose-supplemented diets. Values were higher for RPS-fed rats than for RCS-fed rats.
3. The quantity of carbohydrate recovered from ileal and caecal contents showed that both RCS and RPS were partially digested and absorbed as carbohydrate, but that RPS was digested to a lesser extent.
4. The concentration of carbohydrate decreased between the ileal and caecal sites when RPS and RCS were given but was essentially unchanged when cellulose was given. This is consistent with rapid fermentation of a fraction of these starches.
5. Faecal carbohydrate elimination in the 17/18 d groups fed on RCS and RPS declined with time, which suggested an adaptive response resulting in increased utilization of the starches. This adaptive response was slower in the RPS-fed rats than the RCS-fed rats.
6. The present study indicates that, in the rat, there are significant differences in the utilization of resistant starches from different sources.