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Prebiotic ---what we need to know

#Tejasvani knowledge desk

Prebiotics are a group of nutrients that are degraded by gut microbiota. Their relationship with human overall health has been an area of increasing interest in recent years. They can feed the intestinal microbiota, and their degradation products are short-chain fatty acids that are released into blood circulation, consequently, affecting not only the gastrointestinal tracts but also other distant organs.

Considering the health benefits of prebiotics and their safety, as well as their production and storage advantages compared to probiotics, they seem to be fascinating candidates for promoting human health condition as a replacement or in association with probiotics.

Although some endogenous factors, such as mucin secretions, can affect the microbial balance, human diet is the chief source of energy for their growth. Particularly, non-digestible carbohydrates can highly modify the composition and function of gut microbiota. Beneficial intestinal microbes ferment these non-digestible dietary substances called prebiotics and obtain their survival energy from degrading indigestible binds of prebiotics. As a result of this, prebiotics can selectively influence gut microbiota. On the other hand, the gut microbiota affects intestinal functions, such as metabolism and integrity of the intestine. Moreover, they can suppress pathogens in healthy individuals through induction of some immunomodulatory molecules with antagonistic effects against pathogens by lactic acid. that is produced: by Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus genera.

Various compounds have been tested to determine their function as prebiotics. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), and trans-galacto-oligosaccharides (TOS) are the most common prebiotics. Fermentation of prebiotics by gut microbiota produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including lactic acid, butyric acid, and propionic acid.

Types of prebiotics:

Fructans (FOS)

This category consists of inulin and fructo-oligosaccharide or oligofructose.

Previously, some studies implicated that fructans can stimulate lactic acid bacteria selectively. However, over recent years, there are some investigations showing that the chain length of fructans is an important criterion to determine which bacteria can ferment them. Therefore, other bacterial species can also be promoted directly or indirectly by fructans.

Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS)

Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), the product of lactose extension, are classified into two subgroups.

GOSs can greatly stimulate Bifidobacteria and LactobacilliBifidobacteria in infants have shown high incorporation with GOS. EnterobacteriaBacteroidetes, and Firmicutes are also stimulated by GOS, but to a lesser extent than Bifidobacteria.

Starch and Glucose-Derived Oligosaccharides

There is a kind of starch that is resistant to the upper gut digestion known as resistant starch (RS). RS can promote health by producing a high level of butyrate; so, it has been suggested to be classified as a prebiotic.

Other Oligosaccharides

Some oligosaccharides are originated from a polysaccharide known as pectin. This type of oligosaccharide is called pectic oligosaccharide (POS).

Non-Carbohydrate Oligosaccharides

Although carbohydrates are more likely to meet the criteria of prebiotics definition, there are some compounds that are not classified as carbohydrates but are recommended to be classified as prebiotics, such as cocoa-derived flavanols. In vivo and in vitro experiments demonstrate that flavanols can stimulate lactic acid bacteria.

Prebiotics play an important role in human health. They naturally exist in different dietary food products, including asparagus, sugar beet, garlic, chicory, onion, Jerusalem artichoke, wheat, honey, banana, barley, tomato, rye, soybean, human’s and cow’s milk, peas, beans, etc., and recently, seaweeds and microalgae. Because of their low concentration in foods, they are manufactured on industrial large scales. Some of the prebiotics are produced by using lactose, sucrose, and starch as raw material.

Most prebiotics are classified as GOS and FOS.


FOS exists in about 36,000 plants, however, the concentration of FOS in these sources is not enough to have prebiotics effects. 


GOSs were first chemically synthesized by nucleophilic and electrophilic displacement, but this method is currently deemed to be uneconomical at the industrial scale. So, this variant is expensive.

Almost every production of this involves has high technology cost and ups and downs and possibly must be used with great caution –because each technology has plus or minus.

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