From probiotics to prebiotics and a healthy digestive system
Gibson, G.R. (2004) From probiotics to prebiotics and a healthy digestive system. Journal of Food Science, 69 (5). M141-M143. ISSN 0022-1147
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Ingestion of probiotics can be recommended as a preventative approach to maintaining intestinal microflora balance and thereby enhance 'well-being'. Undoubtedly, probiotic bacteria will vary in their efficacy. The literature indicates positive results in over 50 human trials with prevention/treatment of infections the most frequently reported. In theory increased levels of probiotics may induce a 'barrier' influence against common pathogens. Mechanisms of effect are likely to include the excretion of acids (lactate, acetate), competition for nutrients and gut receptor sites, immuno-modulation and the formation of specific antimicrobial agents. An alternative, or additional, approach is the prebiotic concept. This takes the view that probiotics are present indigenous to the gut and that a rational approach towards increasing their numbers would be to consume food ingredients (carbohydrates) that have a selective metabolism in the lower gut. A prebiotic is 'a nondigestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon that can improve the host health.' In particular, the ingestion of fructo-oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides, and lactulose has shown to stimulate bifidobacteria in the lower gut.