Dietary fiber in weaning cereals: A study of the effect on stool characteristics and absorption of energy, nitrogen, and minerals in healthy infants

Lena Davidsson, Jill Mackenzie, Peter Kastenmayer, Anne Rose, Barbara E. Golden, Peter J. Aggett, Richard F. Hurrell

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We evaluated the effect of increased dietary fiber (DF) content in weaning cereals based on wheat/soy (8.0 and 1.8% DF) and wheat/milk (5.3 and 2.0% DF) in healthy, formula-fed infants 7-17 weeks old. The study had a cross-over design, each infant acting as his or her own control. Stool characteristics and anthropometry were monitored over 4-week periods in groups of 34 (wheat/soy) and 23 (wheat/milk) infants. Absorption of zinc (Zn) and calcium (Ca) was studied by measuring the fecal excretion of stable isotopes during 72 h (70Zn and 42Ca) in a subgroup of the infants consuming wheat/soy cereals. Iron (Fe) bioavailability was evaluated by analysis of the incorporation of 58Fe into erythrocytes 14 days after administration. Fractional absorption (X ± SD: 8.0 versus 1.8% DF) was 45.3 ± 27.5 versus 41.2 ± 19.4% of 70Zn and 63.4 ± 15.8 versus 64.4 ± 10.6% of 42Ca. Bioavailability of 58Fe varied between 1.0% and 5.4% (8.0% DF) and from <0.9% to 9.1% (1.8% DF). No significant difference in energy (95.3 ± 2.0% versus 95.7 ± 1.2%) or nitrogen (92.6 ± 2.3% versus 93.0 ± 1.6%) apparent absorption from the total diet was found during consumption of cereal with 8.0 and 1.8% DF. The intake of cereal decreased with higher DF content in the wheat/soy product: 34 ± 23 g/d (8.0% DF) versus 42 ± 23 g/d (1.8% DF), p < 0.01. While consuming the 8.0% DF product, 11 infants were reported to have 'gritty stools'; no other differences were observed between different groups in stool characteristics or anthropometry. These results demonstrate no negative effect on the absorption of energy and nutrients with higher dietary fiber intake in primarily formula-fed infants. The impact of increased dietary fiber levels remains unknown in less well-nourished infants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-179
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 1996



  • Calcium
  • Energy
  • Infants
  • Iron
  • Nitrogen
  • Weaning cereal
  • Zinc

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