A comparative, randomised, double-blind trial was performed in the medical departments of five hospitals to study the effects of regular consumption of short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (sc-FOS) on the digestive comfort of subjects with minor functional bowel disorders (FBD). In step 1, 2235 subjects were questioned to assess the incidence and intensity of digestive disorders. In step 2, 105 of these patients diagnosed with minor FBD were randomised into two groups to receive either 5 g sc-FOS or 5 g placebo (sucrose and maltodextrins) per d over a 6-week period. The incidence and intensity of digestive disorders were assessed at the end of the treatment period (day 43) using the step 1 questionnaires. A quality-of-life questionnaire was also completed at the start and end of the treatment period to assess potential effects on well-being and social performance. In step 1, 44 % of the subjects questioned presented FBD, of whom 57·1 % suffered from minor FBD. In step 2, on day 43, the intensity of digestive disorders decreased by 43·6 % in the sc-FOS group v. a 13·8 % increase in the placebo group (P = 0·026). Symptoms were experienced less frequently by 75·0 % of subjects in the sc-FOS group, while 53·8 % of controls experienced no change (P = 0·064). Using the functional digestive disorders quality of life questionnaire, the discomfort item scores increased in the sc-FOS group (P = 0·031). However, expressed as change in quality of life (improvement, worsening or unchanged), daily activities were significantly improved in the sc-FOS group (P = 0.022). Regular consumption of sc-FOS may improve digestive comfort in a working population not undergoing medical treatment.