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Multiple beam Fizeau fringes in transmission have been used to demonstrate and to measure the change of principal stresses in the cladding of single-mode optical fibers due to bending. The study represents a nonlinear relation between the difference of maximum radial values of cladding’s refractive indices with the radii of curvature in the cladding of the bent optical fibers. The limiting acceptable bending radius has been investigated. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.