Research Article

Are fibre supplements really necessary in diverticular disease of the colon? A controlled clinical trial.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981; 282 doi: (Published 25 April 1981) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;282:1353
  1. M H Ornstein,
  2. E R Littlewood,
  3. I M Baird,
  4. J Fowler,
  5. W R North,
  6. A G Cox


    Fifty-eight patients with uncomplicated diverticular disease of the colon took bran crispbread, ispaghula drink, and placebo for four months each in a randomised, cross-over, double-blind controlled trial. Assessments were made subjectively, using a monthly self-administered questionnaire, and objectively, by examining a seven-day stool collection at the end of each treatment period. In terms of a pain score, lower bowel symptom score (the pain score and sensation of incomplete emptying, straining, stool consistency, flatus, and aperients taken), and total symptom score (belching, nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia, and abdominal distension) fibre supplementation conferred no benefit. Symptoms of constipation, however, when assessed alone, were significantly relieved. Both fibre regimens produced the expected changes in stool weight, consistency, and frequency. It is concluded that dietary fibre supplements in the commonly used doses do no more than relieve constipation. Perhaps the impression that fibre helps diverticular disease is simply a manifestation of Western civilisation's obsession with the need for regular frequent defecation.