Abbreviation: DDT, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane.

that bacteria are excreted daily, and that the normal intestinal transit time varies between 48 and 72 hours. In "Western societies," such as the United Kingdom, the major intestinal bacterial carbohydrate substrates available are non-starch polysaccharide 12 grams, oligosaccharides 5 grams, simple sugars less than 5 grams, resistant starch 4 grams, and fermentable polysaccharides from intestinal mucus unknown (5,9). The amount of carbohydrate derived from colonic mucus available for bacterial fermentation is limited based on the fact that elemental diets support a very low bacterial biomass (10,11). All of these sources of carbohydrates are not readily digested and absorbed by humans, and thus arrive intact in the colon.

Bacteroides, the most abundant bacterial genus in the ileum and colon can degrade, and ferment a number of different polysaccharides, including xylan, psyllium hydrocolloid, and numerous other plant polysaccharides (12,13). Bacteroides can also degrade host derived glycans such as chondroitin sulfate, mucin, heparin, hyaluronate, and glycosphingolipids.

The fact that non-absorbable polysaccharides would not provide energy for the host adds a function to intestinal bacterial carbohydrate fermentation, namely salvaging energy. The major end products of bacterial fermentation in the intestine are the short chain fatty acids, acetate, propionate, and butyrate (14). For humans approximately 20-70 grams of carbohydrate would normally be fermented by intestinal flora per day. This would translate into 30-105 kcal per day or between 1.5 and 5% of typical human caloric intake. This percentage of caloric requirements varies greatly with the amount of fiber and other nonabsorbable polysaccharides consumed per day. In developing countries, populations may derive larger benefits from bacterial metabolism in the intestine, as a result of greater consumption of plant fiber.

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