Prebiotics are the healthy dietary fiber that enhances the growth of healthy bacteria and provide health benefits to the human host.
Most people have common knowledge of probiotics and gut health. However, pre biotics is less known. Both probiotics and pre-biotics are essential to achieving optimal gut health. In this article, we will take a more in-depth look into preebiotics and their health benefits.
What are prebiotics and why do I need them?
Based on the 2017 International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) Annual Meeting, a dietary prebiotic is defined as ‘a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.’[i]
Prebiotics are a highly significant component of our daily diet because they promote the health of the most common beneficial gut bacteria – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These two gut microflorae tend to limit the population of bad gut bacteria.
Are high-fiber foods prebiotic?
While all prebiotics is fiber, not all fiber foods are prebiotic. A food ingredient can be considered as a prebiotic if it demonstrates the following criteria[ii]:
- It can withstand gastric acidity, break down by enzymes, and absorption in the upper GI tract.
- The gut microflora ferments it.
- It can selectively stimulate intestinal bacterial growth and activity to improve overall health and wellbeing.
Examples of natural prebiotics include oligofructose, mannan oligosaccharides, lactose, inulin, and galacto-glucomannans.
- The best food sources of pre-biotics include:
Nuts and seeds (contains arabinose)
- Garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes, and leeks (contains inulin)
- Bananas, berries, and legumes (rich in fructooligosaccharide)
- Whole grains (containing wheat dextrin)
How Does Prebiotics Help My Metabolism?
Since all prebiotics is fiber, they help increase metabolism the same way other fiber-rich foods do. Metabolism is the process by which the body converts food to energy.
Having a diet rich in fiber-rich foods increases metabolism. Fiber is indigestible, and in an attempt to digest fiber, the body utilizes more calories than it would with other types of food. Hence, you spend more calories processing fiber-rich foods.
Numerous animal and human studies support the positive effects of pre-biotics with improved energy balance, lower weight gain, and better satiety. A study has found that fermentable dietary fibers as fructooligosaccharides can be supplemented in foods to trigger satiety and therefore, prevent obesity[iii].
Will prebiotics improve immune function and nutritional status?
A significant number of studies have revealed that consumption of specific prebiotic-containing foods can result in dramatic changes in the composition of intestinal bacteria that support optimal immunity[iv]. This ‘prebiotic influence’ is believed to be linked to modulation of immune system biomarkers, including a decrease in the level of cancer-promoting enzymes[v].
Prebiotics boost immunity since they improve the ability of the body to absorb nutrients and trace minerals from your diet. They also lower gut pH, which can help prevent overgrowth of damaging bacteria and possible pathogens.
Will prebiotics help reduce inflammation and chronic disease?
Prebiotics can help reduce inflammation, which is considered one of the root causes of diseases. In general, a diet high in fiber tends to have healthy levels of cholesterol. Recently, the use of probiotics and prebio-tics has become increasingly popular as an alternative to cholesterol-lowering drugs[vi]. Prebiotics can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, and other inflammatory diseases.
It is believed that both probiotics and pre-biotics contribute to improving metabolic processes connected to both Type 2 diabetes and obesity. A healthier gut environment also appears to help the body break down and metabolize nutrients. It also helps regulate immune and hormonal functions that determine where and how the body stores fat.
In general, consumption of prebiotics has been linked to many health benefits. Due to its cholesterol-lowering effect. Consuming prebiotic fiber daily is a simple way to reduce cholesterol levels, promote better hormonal balance, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Further, it lowers inflammation and boosts immune response.
It also promotes overall better gut health and improved digestion. Because it promotes satiety, it prevents weight gain and lowers the risk of obesity.
[i] International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Preb-iotics (ISAPP). (June 2017). Preb-iotics Definition. Retrieved from https://isappscience.org/prebiotic-definition-updated-isapp/
[ii] Joanne Slavin. (April 2013). Fiber and Preb-iotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705355/#B2-nutrients-05-01417
[iii] Hess JR, et.al. (February 2011). Effects of short-chain fructooligosaccharides on satiety responses in healthy men and women. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21146572
[iv] Roberfroid M, et.al. (August 2010). Prebiotic effects: metabolic and health benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20920376
[v] de Vrese M, Schrezenmeir J. (2008). Probiotics, preb0iotics, and synbiotics. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18461293
[vi] Lay-Gaik Ooi and Min-Tze Liong. (June 2010). Cholesterol-Lowering Effects of Probiotics and Preb-iotics: A Review of in Vivo and in Vitro Findings. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904929/