1. An experimental model for the determination of dietary fibre according to the definition of Trowell et al. (1976) is described. Food was subjected to in vivo digestion in ileostomy patients, and the ileostomy contents were collected quantitatively, the polysaccharide components of which were analysed by gas–liquid chromatography and the Klason lignin by gravimetric determination. The model was used for the determination of dietary fibre in AACC (American Association of Cereal Chemists), wheat bran and for studies on the extent of hydrolysis of wheat-bran fibre in the stomach and small intestine. The effect of wheat bran on ileostomy losses of nitrogen, starch and electrolytes was also investigated.
2. Nine patients with established ileostomies were studied during two periods while on a constant low-fibre diet. In the second period 16 g AACC wheat bran/d was added to the diet. The ileostomy contents and duplicate portions of the diet were subjected to determinations of wet weight, dry weight, water content, fibre components, starch, N, sodium and potassium.
3. The wet weight of ileostomy contents increased by 94 g/24 h and dry weight by 10 g/24 h after consumption of bran. The dietary fibre of AACC bran, determined as the increase in polysaccharides and lignin of ileostomy contents after consumption of bran, was 280 g/kg fresh weight (310 g/kg dry matter). Direct analysis of polysaccharides and lignin in bran gave a value of 306 g/kg fresh weight. Of the added bran hemicellulose and cellulose 80–100% and 75–100% respectively were recovered in ileostomy contents. There was no significant difference between the two periods in amount of N, starch and K found in the ileostomy contents. The Na excretion increased during the ‘bran’ period and correlated well with the wet weight of ileostomy contents.
4. In conclusion, it seems probable that determination of dietary fibre by in vivo digestion in ileostomy patients comes very close to the theoretical definition of dietary fibre, as the influence of bacteria in the ileum seems small. Bacterial growth should be avoided by using a technique involving the change of ileostomy bags every 2 h and immediate deep-freezing of the ileostomy contents. True dietary fibre can be determined by direct analysis of polysaccharides and lignin in the food, at least in bran. Very little digestion of hemicellulose and cellulose from bran occurs in the stomach and small bowel. The 10–20% loss in some patients may be due to digestion by the gastric juice or to bacterial fermentation in the ileum, or both. The extra amount of faecal N after consumption of bran, reported by others, is probably produced in the large bowel.