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55% of patients were made worse by bran whereas only 10% had found it helpful.

July 2, 1994


Bran and irritable bowel syndrome: time for reappraisal.

Crohn's Disease


Whilst following up large numbers of patients with irritable bowel syndrome we got the impression that wholemeal wheat and bran products made people with the condition worse rather than better. One hundred consecutive new referrals, all of whom had tried bran, were questioned to resolve this issue. 55% of patients were made worse by bran whereas only 10% had found it helpful. With the exception of fruit, other forms of dietary fibre were not as detrimental and proprietary supplements were found to be beneficial. All symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome were exacerbated by bran, with bowel disturbance most often adversely affected, followed by abdominal distension and pain. The results of this study suggest that the use of bran in irritable bowel syndrome should be reconsidered. The study also raises the possibility that excessive consumption of bran in the community may actually be creating patients with irritable bowel syndrome by exacerbating mild, non-complaining cases.

Bran supplementation in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. - 1994 Oct 5




Irritable bowel syndrome remains the commonest reason for referral to a gastroenterology clinic. Patients with irritable bowel syndrome are frequently advised to increase their intake of bran fibre, despite inconclusive experimental evidence of benefit.


The effect of dietary supplementation with a bolus of bran fibre (12 g/day) was studied in a block-randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study of 80 patients with irritable bowel syndrome referred to a District General Hospital outpatient clinic. Comparison of the benefits of bran and placebo was based upon personal assessment of individual and overall symptom profiles, determined from a simple daily symptom score and post-treatment interview.


Overall symptomatic improvement was reported with bran by 52% and with placebo by 54% of patients. Bran supplementation was no more effective than placebo in improving individual symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and for wind-related symptoms it was significantly less effective (P < 0.001).


Dietary supplementation with bran is of no value in the treatment of patients with irritable bowel syndrome referred to a hospital clinic.