Top 4 Prebiotics & Their Amazing Health Benefits
Prebiotics are a form of nutritive fiber from various natural sources. They nourish and promote the growth of the desirable, probiotic bacteria in the intestines. There are several prebiotics currently in use, which are often combined in supplements together with probiotics. In addition, prebiotics are increasingly being used as stand-alone supplements, which makes sense given that they are trending in the dietary supplement industry. Following is an overview of four of the top prebiotics and the benefits they offer.
Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) has been shown to effectively increase numbers of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli probiotics in the gut,[i] [ii] by as much as 12-fold.[iii] In research on rats and mice, IMO also helped suppress the growth undesirable Clostridium bacteria.[iv] [v] In research[vi] on older men, IMO was effective in relieving constipation. Unlike some other prebiotics, IMO is digested in the small intestine as well as in the large intestine (colon), [vii] suggesting it can “feed” probiotics throughout the intestinal tract. Additionally, research has shown that IMO can increase probiotic numbers fairly quickly—in as little as 12 days.[viii]
Acacia gum (also known as gum arabic, arabic gum, gum acacia, acacia, Senegal gum and Indian gum[ix]), is derived from the hardened sap of acacia tree species. It is a complex mixture of glycoproteins and polysaccharides. Research[x] has shown that supplementation with acacia gum increased Bifidobacteria levels by 7 times. In addition, there was a slight reduction in the number of subjects with higher counts of Clostridium perfringens, in those supplementing with acacia gum. In addition, multiple other studies have demonstrated that acacia gum acts as a prebiotic, increasing the growth of desirable probiotic bacteria.[xi] [xii] [xiii] [xiv] [xv] Furthermore, it should be noted that, after a few days, no acacia gum is found in rat or human feces, meaning that acacia gum is totally broken down by colonic bacteria in the gut, and then fermented.[xvi] As it turns out, this probiotic function has a positive role to play regarding gut barrier function. Research has demonstrated that acacia gum helped restore gut impermeability at a cellular level.[xviii] [xviii] [xix]
Another prebiotic, xylooligosaccharides (XOS) was shown to effectively increase Bifidobacteria counts.[xx]
In addition, supplementation with XOS was shown[xxi] to help promote healthy blood sugar and lipid levels already in a healthy range. This prebiotic was further demonstrated[xxii] to help relieve constipation in pregnant women without adverse effects.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are, perhaps, the most well-known of the prebiotics. For a long time, FOS have been recognized for their considerable ability to promote Bifidobacteria, as well as the butyrate they produce, a short-chain fatty acid which is essential to the colon cells.[xxiii] [xxiv] In any case, a number of studies have demonstrated at FOS are capable of effectively increasing Bifidobacteria and short-chain fatty acids, [xxv] [xxvi] [xxvii] [xxviiii] as well as relieving constipation. [xxix]
Whichever prebiotics you choose, the research clearly shows that they can help increase levels of healthy probiotic bacteria. Since the studies typically use prebiotics in gram quantities, the use of a powdered product makes sense—especially considering that prebiotics have a pleasant, mildly sweet taste.
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[i] Rycroft CE, Jones MR, Gibson GR, Rastall RA. A comparative in vitro evaluation of the fermentation properties of prebiotic oligosaccharides. J Appl Microbiol. 2001;91(5):878-887.
[ii] Kaneko T, Komoto T, Kikuchi H, Shiota M, Yatake T, Iino H, Tsuji K. Effects of isomaltooligosaccharides intake on defecation and intestinal environment in healthy volunteers. Nihon Kasei Gakkaishi. 1993;44(4):245-254.
[iii] Kohmoto T, Fukui F, Takaku H, Machida Y, Arai M, Mitsuoka T. Effect of isomalto-oligosaccharides on human fecal flora. Bifidobacteria Microflora. 1988;7(2):61-69.
[iv] Kaneko T, Kohmoto T, Fukui F, Akiba T, Suzuki S, Hirao A, Nakatsuru S, Kanisawa M. Acute and chronic toxicity and mutagenicity studies on isomaltooligosaccharides, and the effect on peripheral blood lymphocytes and intestinal microflora. Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi. 1990;31(5):394-403.
[v] Qing, G.; Yi, Y.; Guohong, J.; Gai, C. Study on the regulative effect of isomaltooligosaccharides on human intestinal flora]. Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2003;32(1):54-55.
[vi] Chen HL, Lu YH, Lin JJ, Ko LY. Effects of isomalto-oligosaccharides on bowel functions and indicators of nutritional status in constipated elderly men. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001 Feb;20(1):44-9.
[vii] Kohmoto T, Fukui F, Takaku H, Mitsuoka T. Dose-response test of isomaltooligosaccharides for increasing fecal bifidobacteria. Agric Biol Chem. 1991;55(8):2157-2159.
[viii] Kaneko T, Kohmoto T, Kikuchi H, Shito M, Iino H, Mitsuoka T. Effect of isomaltooligosaccharides with different degrees of polymerization on human fecal bifidobacteria. Biosci. Biotech. Biochem. 1994;58(12):2288-2290.
[ix] EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS), et al. Re‐evaluation of acacia gum (E 414) as a food additive. EFSA Journal. 2017;15 (4):4741.
[x] Rochat F, Baumgartner M, Jann A, Rochat C, Nielsen G, Reuteler G, Ballèvre O. Synergistic effect of prebiotics on human intestinal microflora. 2001 – Ref Type: Personal Communication. In Meance S. Acacia gum (Fibregum™), a very well tolerated specific natural prebiotic having a wide range of food applications – Part 1. AgroFOOD industry hi-tech. 2004. January/February:24-28.
[xi] Wyatt GM, Bayliss CE, Holcroft JD. A change in human faecal flora in response to inclusion of gum arabic in the diet. Br J Nutr. 1986; 55:261–66.
[xii] Salyers AA, Palmer JK, Wilkins TD. Degradation of polysaccharides by intestinal bacterial enzymes. Am J Clin Nutr. 1978;31:S128-S130.
[xiii] Salyers AA, West SE, Vercellotti JR, Wilkins TD. Fermentation of mucins and plant polysaccharides by anaerobic bacteria from the human colon. Appl Environ Microbiol. 1977;34:529-33.
[xiv] Crociani F, Alessandrini A, Mucci MM, Biavati B. Degradation of complex carbohydrates by Bifidobacterium spp. Int J Food Microbiol. 1994;24:199-210. [ABSTRACT ONLY]
[xv] Michel C, Kravtchenko TP, David A, Gueneau S, Kozolowski F, Cherbut C. In vitro prebiotic effects of acacia gums onto the human intestinal microbiota depends on both botanical origin and environmental pH. Anaerobe 1998;257-66. [ABSTRACT ONLY]
[xvi] Baray S. Chapter 7: Acacia Gum. In Cho SS, Samuel P (Eds.). Fiber Ingredients: Food Applications and Health Benefits. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2009: 121-134.
[xvii] Sokol H, Pigneur B, Watterlot L, Lakhdari O, Bermúdez-Humarán LG, Gratadoux JJ, Blugeon S, Bridonneau C, Furet JP, Corthier G, Grangette C, Vasquez N, Pochart P, Trugnan G, Thomas G, Blottière HM, Doré J, Marteau P, Seksik P, Langella P., Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is an anti-inflammatory commensal bacterium identified by gut microbiota analysis of Crohn disease patients., Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Oct 28; 105(43):16731-6.
[xviii] White paper: How Fibregum™ reinforces the gut barrier at the cellular level. Nexira. May 6, 2017. Along the way, acacia gum also helps lower cholesterol levels.
[xix] Ulluwishewa D, Anderson RC, McNabb WC, Moughan PJ, Wells JM, Roy NC., Regulation of tight junction permeability by intestinal bacteria and dietary components., J Nutr. 2011 May;141(5):769-76.
[xx] Finegold SM, Li Z, Summanen PH, Downes J, Thames G, Corbett K, Dowd S, Krak M, Heber D. Xylooligosaccharide increases bifidobacteria but not lactobacilli in human gut microbiota. Food Funct. 2014 Mar;5(3):436-45.
[xxi] Sheu WH, Lee IT, Chen W, Chan YC. Effects of xylooligosaccharides in type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2008 Oct;54(5):396-401.
[xxii] Tateyama I, Hashii K, Johno I, Iino T, Hirai K, Suwa Y, Kiso Y. Effect of xylooligosaccharide intake on severe constipation in pregnant women. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2005 Dec;51(6):445-8.
[xxiii] Losada MA, Olleros T. Towards a healthier diet for the colon: the influence of fructooligosaccharides and lactobacilli on intestinal health. Nutr Res 2002;22:71-84.
[xxiv] Cummings JH, Macfarlane GT, Englyst HN. Prebiotic digestion and fermentation. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:415S-420S.
[xxv] Bouhnik Y, Vahedi K, Achour L, Attar A, Salfati J, Pochart P, Marteau P, Flourié B, Bornet F, Rambaud JC. Short-chain fructo-oligosaccharide administration dose-dependently increases fecal bifidobacteria in healthy humans. J Nutr 1999; 129(1):113-6.
[xxvi] Chen HL, Lu YH, Lin JJ, Ko LY. Effects of fructooligosaccharide on bowel function and indicators of nutritional status in constipated elderly men. Nutr Res 2000;20:1725-33.
[xxvii] Chen HL, Lu YH, Lin JJ, Ko LY. Effects of fructooligosaccharide on bowel function and indicators of nutritional status in constipated elderly men. Nutr Res 2000;20:1725-33.
[xxviii] Menne E, Guggenbuhl N, Roberfroid M. Fn-type chicory inulin hydrolysate has a prebiotic effect in humans. J Nutr 2000;130:1197-9.3.
[xxix] Chen HL, Lu YH, Lin JJ, Ko LY. Effects of fructooligosaccharide on bowel function and indicators of nutritional status in constipated elderly men. Nutr Res 2000;20:1725-33.
About the Author: Gene Bruno
Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG) - With decades of experience working along side healthcare professionals and natural product retailers, developing innovative nutraceutical formulations, and working with academic institutions, Gene has cultivated a truly unique and impressive catalog of nutraceutical knowledge and insights.