Assessing the science supporting the use of prebiotics to rebalance and maintain health

Background

A prebiotic is a food ingredient that selectively stimulates growth and / or the activity of beneficial microbial species in the microorganisms that inhabit the intestinal tract – the gut microbiota – and that confers health benefits to the host. Some prebiotics occur naturally in foods, such as chicory, onions, cereals, agave and milk. However, most foods contain only trace levels.

Objectives

The Prebiotics Task Force aims to better understand the mechanisms behind prebiotic effects and their beneficial functions, and to advance their applications into a balanced diet.

Impact

The task force has put in place sound scientific foundations to substantiate health functions on prebiotics (M. Roberfroid et al., 2010). The review addresses the following areas: modulation of gut microbiota composition and activity, immunity, inflammation, mineral absorption, colon cancer and finally energy homeostasis, satiety regulation and body weight gain. The paper was cited over 760 times and received more than 26,000 views.

The task force collaborates with other ILSI Europe task forces, in particular with the Probiotics Task Force, to combine expertise on the potential effects of prebiotics on relevant areas such as digestion, absorption, immunity, brain / neuronal function or appetite regulation. The Prebiotics Task Force also shares knowledge with other ILSI branches around the world via the One ILSI Exchange Platform ‘Human Microbiome & Health’.

The collaboration with the Probiotics Task Force led to a joint Concise Monograph (N. Binns 2013) that summarises the science and principles valid for prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics today. This successful publication (with more than 4,000 downloads from our website) has just been translated into Portuguese and Japanese. It will soon be available in French.

What’s New

  • The task force is developing a New Activity Proposal (NAP) entitled ‘Examination of Short Chain Fatty Acid Production as Health Benefit’ which deals with short chain fatty acid production linked to fermentation of prebiotic compounds. Building on the results of the expert group that addressed microbial fermentation and metabolism, the main output should be a comprehensive review that summarises fundamental issues and identifies the current gaps in research. The NAP is currently under review.
  • The results of the expert group on Health Benefits of Prebiotics, Looking at Microbial Fermentation and Metabolism were published in the journal Nutrition Research Reviews (A. Verbeke et al., 2015).

For more detailed information, please contact Dr Tobias Recker at trecker@ilsieurope.be

Task Force Members

Dr Alexandra Meynier – Chair Mondelēz International FR
Dr Arjen Nauta – Vice-Chair FrieslandCampina NL
Prof. Kristin Verbeke – Co-Chair Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders (TARGID) BE
Dr Emmanuelle Apper Tereos FR
Dr Frédéric Ducluseau Nexira FR
Dr Sofia Forssten DuPont Nutrition and Health FI
Dr Heidi Jacobs Cosucra Groupe Warcoing BE
Dr Hasan Mohajeri DSM CH
Ms Stéphanie Reichart Fresenius Kabi DE
Dr Florence Rochat Nestlé CH
Dr Bertrand Rodriguez Roquette Group FR
Dr Bernd Stahl Danone NL
Dr Stephan Theis Südzucker Group DE
Dr Ric van Tol Mead Johnson Nutrition NL
Dr Elaine Vaughan Sensus NL
Dr Joan Vermeiren Cargill BE
Dr Tobias Recker ILSI Europe BE

 

Expert Groups

Understand the Relationship Between the Molecular Structure and the Effects of Prebiotic Compounds on Microbiota and its Metabolites

Objectives

Prebiotics bear the potential to modulate the host microbiota composition and activity. These compounds display great variability in terms of structure but, so far, no clear conclusion regarding structure-function relationship has been drawn, although such knowledge would support the design of new prebiotics targeting specific health benefits.

The aims of this new activity are:

  • To determine the relationship between specific structure characteristics of fermentable carbohydrates and the impact on the composition and activity of the gut microbiota;
  • To investigate the metabolic capacity of human gut microbiota;
  • To consider potential direct effects (without being fermented first) on the host as a secondary objective.

Activity

The activity is not restricted to the definition of prebiotics but generally considers fermentable carbohydrates (prebiotics, candidate prebiotics and oligosaccharides). As investigating prebiotics- / carbohydrates-induced microbiota changes is more promising than assessing corresponding health effects, the project mainly focuses on the overall oro-gastro-intestinal microbial activity and its metabolic capacity to metabolise these compounds. The group is currently reviewing the available metagenomic data on the degradation of oligo- and polysaccharides. In vitro data of potential direct effects of these compounds on host cells with receptor / effector interactions are being examined as well, as for such interactions the structure of the carbohydrate will be very important.
Expected Output

Expected Output

This activity aims to identify relevant gaps in research and to provide a guidance document to support the characterisation of prebiotic structures for future physiological effect studies. The project is intended to be a first step in defining structure-function relations between prebiotics and effects for the host.

Exploring the Role of the Major Gut Microbiota Clusters on Nutritional and Functional Benefits of Nutrients and Non-nutrients

In collaboration with the Functional Foods Task Force

Objectives

The gut microbiota is involved in the metabolism and bio-availability of a large number of nutrients and non-nutrients. Therefore, it is an important variable to take into account when considering the management of obesity, inflammation and the metabolic syndrome. The aim of this activity is to collect and review existing data on different gut microbiota clusters (a specific constellation of microorganisms) in relation to their metabolic effects on selected nutrients and non-nutrients.

Activity

This expert group is systematically reviewing the available data on the effect of the gut microbiota on a selection of dietary substrates (including nutrients and non-nutrients) and also reviewing methodologies used and knowledge of the microbial pathways.

Expected Output

The expert group divided the activity into two parts, addressing each one in a separate manuscript:

  • A first paper has systematically collected and reviewed existing data on the effects of gastrointestinal microbiota on the metabolism of nutrients and non-nutrients;
  • A second paper has reviewed what is known about the gut microbiota and the microbial pathways associated with the metabolism of nutrients and non-nutrients and also reviewed methodologies that can be applied to study gut microbial pathways of metabolism.

A stakeholder workshop organised in collaboration with the Obesity and Diabetes Task Force was held on 3-4 December 2015 in Brussels, Belgium, to refine the conclusions drawn in the draft manuscripts. The outcomes of this expert group were presented at the ILSI Global Annual Meeting (25 January 2016, St. Petersburg, US), the APC Microbiome Workshop (23 February 2016, Brussels, Belgium), IPC 2016 (21-23 June 2016, Budapest, Hungary) and IUFoST 2016 (21-25 August 2016, Dublin, Ireland). A follow-up New Activity Proposal on ‘Microbiome Human Study Research Guidance’ has been submitted for review.

Expert Group Members

Understand the Relationship Between the Molecular Structure and the Effects of Prebiotic Compounds on Microbiota and its Metabolites

Prof. Robert Rastall – Chair University of Reading UK
Dr Alexandra Meynier – Vice-Chair Mondelēz Europe FR
Dr Emmanuelle Apper Tereos FR
Dr Sofia Forssten DuPont Nutrition & Health FI
Prof. Bruce Hamaker Purdue University US
Dr Javier Moreno Universidad Autónoma de Madrid ES
Dr Florence Rochat Nestlé CH
Prof. Henk Schols University of Wageningen NL
Dr Bernd Stahl Danone NL
Dr Koen Venema University of Maastricht NL
Dr Tobias Recker ILSI Europe BE

Exploring the Role of the Major Gut Microbiota Clusters on Nutritional and Functional Benefits of Nutrients and Non-nutrients*

Prof. Ian Rowland – Chair University of Reading UK
Prof. Glenn Gibson University of Reading UK
Dr Oliver Hasselwander DuPont Nutrition and Health UK
Prof. Karsten Kristiansen University of Copenhagen DK
Dr Alexandra Meynier Mondelēz Europe FR
Dr Arjen Nauta FrieslandCampina NL
Dr Karen Scott University of Aberdeen UK
Prof. Colette Shortt Johnson & Johnson EAME UK
Prof. Jonathan Swann Imperial College London UK
Dr Ines Thiele University of Luxembourg LU
Prof. Kieran Tuohy Fondazione Edmund Mach IT
Dr Jessica Türk Yakult Europe DE
Dr Joan Vermeiren Cargill BE
Dr Tobias Recker ILSI Europe BE

*Dr Jean-Michel Antoine, a former representative of Danone, is also an expert group member.

Posters

Understanding the Prebiotics Metabolic and Health Effects

Publications

All Publications

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