Metabolic and Morphometric Changes in Small and Large Intestine in Rats Fed High-Fiber Diets

Aliza Stark, Abraham Nyska, Zecharia Madar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Structural modifications of the intestine following fiber intake may play an important role in the physiological effects induced by dietary fiber. The aim of this study was to examine possible mechanisms for the hypocholesterolemic effects of dietary fibers by evaluating both biochemical and morphometric parameters. Thirty male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into 3 groups and fed either a fiber-free, 15% fiber high methoxy pectin, or 15% cellulose diet for a 4-wk period. Plasma cholesterol levels, hepatic enzyme activity, and fecal bile acid excretion were determined, and changes in the intestinal structure were evaluated. Daily fecal bile acid excretion was significantly higher in rats fed the pectin diet accompanied by elevated HMG-CoA reductase activity. Pectin feeding led to significant elongation of both the small and large intestine whereas cellulose only affected colon length. Computerized image analysis of intestinal cross-sections showed enlarged muscle area in the ileum and midcolon of pectin-fed rats and greater mucosal area in the colon. Circular muscle cell hypertrophy was also observed in the colon. In contrast, the effects of cellulose feeding were limited to elongation of the colon accompanied by muscle cell hypertrophy, and little effect on ileal morphology was documented. These data indicate that the hypocholestrolemic effects of pectin may be due to increased bile acid secretion accompanied by significant morphological changes in the ileum and colon.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)166-171
Number of pages6
JournalToxicologic Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1996


  • Dietary fiber
  • cellulose
  • cholesterol
  • image analysis
  • pectin
  • tunica muscularis


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