Science for You: Better guts for pigs and humans

Kola Ajuwon

Kolapo Ajuwon. Photo by Vincent Walter.


Pigs offer humans more than a lesson in mud running, fun as that is. Studies of Sus scrofa domesticus are modeling the benefits of eating fermentable fiber from an early age on to curb obesity and provide other health benefits.

Those are the findings of Kolapo Ajuwon, associate professor of animal sciences, who studies swine digestive systems and metabolism — which closely resemble humans’. His 200-some subjects live and are fed various types of fiber at the Purdue Animal Sciences Research and Education Center.

“Fiber works two ways. It provides good bacteria, and it can protect the liver, muscles and fat tissues,” Ajuwon says. “The benefits go beyond what happens in the stomach.”

Especially valuable: Fermentable fibers, found in chicory, certain roots, tubers and some fruits that contain inulins, also called prebiotic fibers.

“Fermentable fiber makes your gut healthy. First, you have to have a healthy gut with good bacteria. That is ground zero. That can produce compounds that go all over your body to prevent obesity,” he says.

“Almost everything we’re learning has immediate application for humans. With these findings, we expect that health conscious consumers will increase fiber and select specific types of fiber.”

He’s also looking at fiber impact on the gut/brain axis — “How our gut talks to our brain, how the brain regulates what we eat and how much, and how fiber affects that.”

Writer: Kathy Mayer,