Tags: prebiotic | healthy | bacteria | gut

'Prebiotics' Found to Boost Healthful Bacteria

Monday, 27 August 2012 12:00 AM

You've heard of probiotics, ingredients in foods like yogurt that contain beneficial bacteria that promote gastrointestinal health. But food scientists are reporting progress in creating "prebiotics" -- food ingredients designed to nourish healthful bacterial in our guts.

In a presentation to the American Chemical Society last week, Robert Rastall said researchers are developing new sources of the healthful substances for use in a variety of foods, and scientific evidence on the benefits of eating prebiotics is growing.

"Just as people need food to thrive, so do the billions of healthful bacteria that live in our guts, our gastrointestinal tract," Rastall explained. "There's a large and expanding body of scientific evidence that bacteria in the gut play a role in health and disease. Prebiotics are foods that contain nutrients that support the growth and activity of these friendly bacteria."
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Rastall, who heads the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading in the U.K. and has written several books on the trend, noted probiotics are promoted on the labels of food like yogurt and some dietary supplements. Such foods contain friendly bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus believed to release healthful substances as they grow in the GI tract.

Prebiotics are indigestible food ingredients that nourish the friendly bacteria among the estimated 100 trillion microbes living inside the human GI tract. Prebiotic foods are on the market in European, and Rastall predicted that prebiotics will gain a greater foothold in the United States.

One major advantage: Prebiotics do not require refrigeration like probiotic yogurt and other dairy products and could be incorporated into a wider range of foods.

Rastall noted one of the most common prebiotics, called inulin, is in wheat, onions, garlic, chicory and certain other foods. Studies have found that when people eat more inulin and other prebiotics, it promotes a healthier balance of microbes in the gut.
Rastall's team in the U.K. is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, to find ways to make prebiotics from plant carbohydrates like pectins, mannans and xylans for use in foods and stand-alone dietary supplements.

"Prebiotics may prove to be most useful in specific population groups and people with specific health problems rather than the general population," Rastall said, noting they could be particularly beneficial to individuals with gastrointestinal diseases, type 2 diabetes and low-grade inflammation linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other conditions.
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Food scientists are reporting progress in creating food ingredients called 'prebiotics' designed to nourish healthful bacterial in our guts.
Monday, 27 August 2012 12:00 AM
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