BACKGROUND: Dietary fibre lowers the risk of coronary heart disease and colorectal cancer. This survey quantifies mixed link β-glucan (MBG) and arabinoxylan (AX) in wheat and investigates relationships between the grain carbohydrates. MBG and AX contents were measured in 500 and 200 wheat accessions respectively, including diploid, tetraploid and hexaploid genotypes comprising primitive, synthetic and elite lines. RESULTS: Overall, MBG contents ranged between 1.8 and 18.0 g kg -1 grain dry weight. In wheat-barley addition lines and triticale hexaploids the levels were 9.0-11.3 and 3.5-9.6 g kg -1 respectively. The amounts in synthetic wheats were nearer their tetraploid parents than their diploid parents. AX and total non-starch polysaccharide (NSP) contents ranged from 23.7 to 107.5 g kg -1 and from 31.7 to 136.7 g kg -1 respectively. Linear regressions showed that the relationships of starch and grain weight with NSP glucose were stronger than those with AX. CONCLUSION: The results indicated insufficient genetic diversity in the germplasm surveyed to initiate a breeding programme to increase the amount of MBG in wheat grain to 20 g kg -1, a level considered high enough to confer a 10-15% reduction in blood cholesterol.