The colonic fermentation of two diets differing in amounts of resistant starch (RS) was studied. High- and low-RS diets were fed to eight healthy subjects in three meals for 1 d. Breath hydrogen and two blood samples were collected over a 28-h period. The high-RS diet provided 59.1 +/- 4.7 g (mean +/- SE) RS and the low-RS diet provided 5.2 +/- 0.4 g RS. Breath hydrogen and the average total serum acetate were significantly higher during the high-RS diet than during the low-RS diet: 34.1 +/- 4.7 and 23.9 +/- 3.9 ppm (P < 0.001) and 169.1 +/- 12.8 and 118 +/- 6.6 mumol/L (P < 0.01), respectively. Butyrate and propionate were also detected in serum samples. Although not statistically significant, there was a trend (P = 0.087) for butyrate to increase with the high-RS diet. Subjects reported greater gastrointestinal symptoms during the high-RS diet. These results suggest that RS may have effects comparable with those of some fermentable dietary fibers.