Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 March 2007
Sun-dried raisins are a source of dietary fibre and tartaric acid. The effects of tartaric acid on colon function have not been the focus of extensive research. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the effects of dietary fibre and tartaric acid from sun-dried raisins on colon function and on faecal bile acid and short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) excretion in healthy adults. Thirteen healthy subjects were fed 120 g sun-dried raisins/d or 5 g cream of tartar (equivalent to the tartaric acid in 120 g sun-dried raisins)/d for 9 weeks, divided into 3-week cycles. The experimental diets were fed in a crossover design after an initial control period. Faeces were collected for the last 4 d of each cycle for analysis of SCFA and bile acids. Intestinal transit time decreased from 42h on the baseline diet to 31h on cream of tartar (P<0·1) and to 28h on sun-dried raisins (P<0·05). Faeces were softer on both sun-dried raisins and cream of tartar, but sun-dried raisins increased faecal wet weight (P<0·05), while cream of tartar did not. Sun-dried raisins caused significant reductions from baseline values in total bile acid concentration (from 1·42 (sd 1·03) to 1·09 (sd 0·76) mg/g, P<0·05), whereas cream of tartar did not (1·40 (sd 1·06) mg/g). Sun-dried raisins also significantly reduced the lithocholic (LC):deoxylithocholic acid (DC) ratio (from 1·63 (sd 0·85) to 1·09 (sd 0·50), P<0·02), whereas cream of tartar reduced the ratio, but to a lesser extent (1·29 (sd 0·79), NS). Both faecal bile acids and the LC:DC ratio are indicators of reduced risk for colon cancer. Sun-dried raisins increased total SCFA excretion (from 5·6 (sd 3·4) to 7·6 (sd 3·0) g/4d, P<0·05), which remained unchanged with cream of tartar (5·6 (sd 3·0) g/4d). Both sun-dried raisins and cream of tartar appear to be good stool softeners and to shorten intestinal transit time, although the fibre in sun-dried raisins has the added benefit of increasing faecal weight. Both sun-dried raisins and cream of tartar modulate the composition of faecal bile acids and SCFA in a way that has potential health benefits.