First there was PRO-biotics….Now, there is PRE-biotics

November 5, 2008

While knowledge of probiotics has been around since the early 20th century (See posts on 7/8/08 & 10/21/08) , it has only been until recently that we’ve learned about prebiotics, the synergistic companion of probiotics.

Prebiotics are defined as “food ingredients that promote the growth or activity of a limited number of bacterial species for the benefit of the host health”. In real synergy1terms, prebiotics are the “food” for beneficial bacteria. There are currently 3 criteria for a prebiotic effect:

1. Resistance to stomach acids, enzymes, or gut absorption

2. Fermentation (breakdown, metabolism) by intestinal microbes

3. Selective stimulation of the growth and/or activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gut.

When pre- and pro-biotics are taken together, they work synergistically to enhance the health promoting effects of probiotics.

Some prebiotics have also been shown to enhance calcium absorption and may boost the immune system and provide improved resistance against infections.

So, now you might be wondering…’ Where can I find prebiotics?’

wholegrainsPrebiotics are actually found naturally in a variety of foods. The major group of prebiotics in the US food supply is fructans. Fructans are a group of naturally occurring oligosaccharides, found in whole grains, onions, bananas, artichokes, garlic, honey, and leeks. Resistant starch is another category of prebiotics, and can be found it raw potatoes, unripe fruits (example: bananas), and foods fortified with resistant starch. Since the carbohydrate fibers in these foods are non-digestable, they remain in the digestive tract and stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria.

Some US companies that have food products containing prebiotics include Horizon Organic, Stonyfield Farms, Lifeway Foods, Kashi Company, Clif Bar, and Skinny Cow.



inulin-label4Look for ingredient terms on the food label, such as ‘inulin’, ‘chickory root’, ‘corn starch’, ‘modified corn starch’, and ‘maltodextrin’, which indicate presence of prebiotic-type fibers.

The bottom line: There is still much more research to be done on prebiotics, but, for now, I would encourage people to consume food products containing pre- and probiotics as part of a healthy diet. And, in order to optimize the possible digestive and immune enhancing health benefits of probiotics, take together with a prebiotic containing food.

Some products containing BOTH pre- and probiotics include Yoplait Yo-plus and Fiber-One yogurt, So Delicious yogurt, and Stonyfield farms yogurt.


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