Blurring the Distinctions Between Prebiotics Dietary Fibers and Other Fermentable Dietary Carbohydrates in the Colon

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The greatest volume of research and evidence for prebiotic effects has been accrued for fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin, but there is accumulating evidence of prebiotic actions by a number of non-digestible carbohydrates. Lactulose and galacto-oligosaccharides have strong claims to be classified as prebiotics, while there is promising evidence for prebiotic activity by isomalto-, xylo-, and soybean-oligosaccharides. There is growing interest in the impact of dietary fibers on the composition as well as the activity of the intestinal microbiota, and resistant starches and arabinoxylans in particular warrant further study for bifidogenic and other prebiotic effects.

It has been hypothesized that synergies might exist between NDOs that stimulate a bifidogenic response and SCFA production in the proximal colon and larger polysaccharides that sustain a source of fermentable carbohydrate through to the distal colon. ORAFTI (Belgium) market a prebiotic (Synergy 1) that includes both short chain fructo-oligosaccharides and the longer chain fructan inulin and have reported synergistic effects in this combination for a range of physiological effects (246). Similarly, complementary effects have been noted for FOS/inulin and resistant starches (72,247). Development of synergistic prebiotic combinations to optimize the composition and activity of the microbiota throughout the length of the intestinal tract, or to target specific intestinal regions (e.g., for treatment of IBD) is set to provide continuing avenues for future research.

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