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Spotlight on Prebiotics

Gut Health, Well Being| Views: 3661

“The dependence of our gut microbiota on food makes it possible to modify this intestinal flora, to replace pathogenic bacteria with those that benefit us”.

– Ilya Metchnikov, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine (1908)

Prebiotics – precursors to probiotics

So far, to the extent of our knowledge, we know that prebiotics are carbohydrates, which are called either fructo or oligo-saccharides. These molecules resist digestion in the small intestine and reach the large intestine where they are fermented by the bacterial microflora1. Inulin, extracted from chicory roots, is one of these prebiotics that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacterial species such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli1. It is considered that no less than 30 grams of good bacteria “see the day” for every 100 grams of fermented complex carbohydrates1! Fiber consumption around the Globe is far from the recommendations, increasing fiber intake is an important public health goal. Especially considering that prebiotic fibers have the following positive effects on health:

  • Reduction of the prevalence and length of infectious diarrhea and those related to antibiotic therapy
  • Decreased inflammation and relief of inflammatory bowel symptoms
  • Increased bioavailability and absorption of minerals (calcium, magnesium, etc.)
  • Improved lipid profile and protection against heart disease
  • Promoting satiety and healthy weight management to cope with obesity1.

Fructo-oligosaccharides and Inulin

Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are molecules composed of two sugars: fructose and glucose. These are “functional” fibers that are not assimilable by the body, but are digested by the intestinal flora of the colon. Through this fermentation, prebiotics provide a range of benefits to the human host. We find this type of biotic in a variety of foods such as grains (wheat, barley and rye), vegetables and fruits (asparagus, artichokes, corn, bananas and company), herbs (garlic, onion and leeks), legumes (soy, etc.) and roots (chicory and dandelion)2. The most common FOS is inulin, which provides benefits not only at the digestive level, but also at the cognitive and metabolic levels3.

Prebiotics act favorably on human physiology by nourishing the good bacteria of the body, which carry out their hard work of defense against pathogenic bacteria. At the same time, the consumption of prebiotics makes it possible to increase the volume of the stool as well as the frequency of elimination, thus helping to prevent constipation4. Finally, the fermentation of these indigestible carbohydrates generates valuable by-products such as short chain fatty acids and butyrate, in addition to inducing a secretion of immunomodulatory cytokines5. In short, the fermentative process impairs the survival of harmful bacteria by reducing the level of intestinal acidity (pH). Furthermore, the formation of toxic compounds and the activity of pathogenic enzymes are inhibited by the surrounding acidity5.

In Probaclac probiotic formulas, inulin is added in symbiosis to provide a product with superior efficacy. In the same capsule, you find a powerful prebiotic combined with probiotic strains of very high quality. This recipe helps support the competitiveness and survival of the bacteria ingested and those in your body6. How lovely is science!!!

Flash quiz to see who the Experts are!

True or false? Baby formulas are often supplemented with fructo-oligosaccharides for their ability to reproduce a bifidogenic response similar to that which occurs with naturally occurring milk-saccharides.

True! It showcases the power of FOS and its benefits to the health of individuals at all stages of their lives.

True or false? Although all prebiotics are fiber, the opposite is not true... that is, not all fiber perform a prebiotic action.

True! The definition of the World Health Organization (OSM) requires that a prebiotic must resist gastric acidity and hydrolysis by digestive enzymes and then absorption in the small intestine, and must be fermented by the intestinal micro-flora, in addition to stimulating the multiplication of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.


1Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics : mechanisms and health benefits. 2013 ; 5 (4) : 1417-1435.

2Krumbeck JA, Maldonado-Gomez MX, Ramer-Tait AE et Hutkins RW. Prebiotics and synbiotics : dietary strategies for improving gut health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2016 ; 32 (2) : 110-119.

3Smith AP, Sutherland D et Hewlett P. An Investigation of the Acute Effects of Oligofructose-Enriched Inulin on Subjective Wellbeing, Mood and Cognitive Performance. Nutrients. 2015 ; 7 (11) : 8887-8896.

4Sabater-Molina M, Larqué E, Torrella F et Zamora S. Dietary fructooligosaccharides and potential benefits on health. J Physiol Biochem. 2009 ; 65 (3) : 315-328.

5Preidis GA & Versalovic J. Targeting the human microbiome with antibiotics, probiotics, and prebiotics: gastroenterology enters the metagenomics era. Gastroenterology. 2009 ; 136 : 2015–2031.

6Kolida S et Gibson GR. Synbiotics in health and disease. Ann Rev Food Sci Technol. 2011 ; 2 : 373–393.

7Vandenplas Y, Zakharova I et Dmitrieva Y. Oligosaccharides in infant formula: more evidence to validate the role of prebiotics. Br J Nutr. 2015 ; 113 : 1339–1344.