Caister Academic Press

Functional Aspects of Prebiotics and the Impact on Human Health

Vicky De Preter and Kristin Verbeke
from: Probiotics and Prebiotics: Current Research and Future Trends (Edited by: Koen Venema and Ana Paula do Carmo). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2015) Pages: 13-26.

Abstract

Due to the recent developments in analytical techniques to analyse the composition of complex microbial ecosystems, our understanding of the intestinal microbiota has tremendously increased. Several disorders have been associated with an altered composition of the gut bacteria. As a consequence, the microbiota is increasingly recognized as a therapeutic target to improve health. Besides having a trophic and protective function, the microbiota is a metabolically very active ecosystem. Amongst the wide variety of metabolites produced, short chain fatty acids (SCFA) constitute the most relevant compounds in relation to health. As far as we know to date, administration of prebiotics selectively modifies the composition of the intestinal microbiota through several mechanisms and favours the saccharolytic fermentation resulting in increased SCFA production. These SCFA play a pivotal role in the health benefits associated with prebiotic intake as they acidify the colonic lumen, which influences metabolic pathways and inhibits pathogens, and act as signaling molecules on specific receptors. In the future, more detailed information on the exact role of each individual SCFA and on the proportion of the SCFA produced from different prebiotic substrates will be essential to further exploit the benefits of prebiotic use read more ...
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