An experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of differently fermentable carbohydrates on changes in bacterial populations in the ileum of growing pigs fed low-phosphorus (P) diets. Eight barrows (mean surgery BW 36 +/- 0.9 kg) were fitted with simple T-cannulae at the distal ileum and were assigned to one of four dietary treatments: maize-soybean meal based control diet (CD), or 0.75 of CD supplemented with 0.25 lignocellulose, maize starch and high-methylated apple-pectin, respectively. Total bacterial cell counts as well as cell counts of Lactobacillus spp., Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus amylovorus/Lactobacillus sobrius, Lactobacillus mucosae, Enterococcus spp., Enterococcus faecium, Enterococcus faecalis, bifidobacteria, Clostridium coccoides cluster, Clostridium leptum cluster, Bacteroides-Prevotella-Porphyrmonas group and Enterobacteriaceae were determined by quantitative realtime PCR in DNA extracts of ileal digesta. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of DNA fragments, generated by PCR targeting total or Lactobacillus spp. 16S rDNA, was used to estimate the bacterial diversity in the ileum. Lignocellulose supplementation tended (P<0.1) to increase cell counts of total bacteria in faeces compared with the control. Ileal bacterial populations responded differently to carbohydrate addition. Maize starch supplementation strongly stimulated the growth of total lactobacilli and Lactobacillus species (P <= 0.05). Lignocellulose, in turn, enhanced the numbers of bifidobacteria, but reduced those of L. amylovorus compared with the control (P<0.05). Finally, pectin tended to increase the cell numbers of L. amylovorus/L. sobrius and the Bacteroides-Prevotella-Porphyrmonas group compared with the control (P<0.1). DGGE analysis revealed increased band numbers for total bacteria in the ileum of animals fed the lignocellulose and maize starch supplemented diets, white pectin reduced total bacterial (P<0.1) and Lactobacillus spp. diversity (P<0.05) compared with the control, as determined with the Shannon's index. Ileal VFA concentrations were decreased by pectin, while lignocellulose decreased faecal VFA concentrations. In conclusion, ileal bacterial populations and diversity are susceptible to changes in the carbohydrate composition of the diet. However, these changes were not related to major differences in the number of total bacteria in ileal digesta and faeces, but rather to changes in the bacterial species composition and their metabolic activity. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.