Prebiotics

Investigating the potential of prebiotics to rebalance and maintain health

Objectives

A prebiotic is a food ingredient that selectively stimulates growth and/or the activity of microbial species inhabiting the host, which may bring about health benefits.

A better understanding of mechanisms of prebiotics is still needed. The task force aims at providing mechanistic insights linking prebiotics to individual health benefits.

Impact

  • The recent publication on ‘Short-chain fatty acids in human gut and metabolic health’ has been cited already 37 times and adapted for dissemination in a Belgian journal for clinicians.
  • The collaboration with the  Probiotics Task Force resulted in a Concise Monograph that summarises the science and principles valid for prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics today. This publication is often used as teaching material by students and SMEs.
  • The publication ‘Prebiotic Effects: Metabolic and Health Benefits’ summarising beneficial health effects of specific prebiotics consumption has been cited 1,863 times.

For more detailed information, please contact Naomi Venlet at nvenlet@ilsieurope.be or Toula Aslanidis at taslanidis@ilsieurope.be

Task Force Members

*Scientific Advisor

Expert Groups

Prediction of individual responses to prebiotics and probiotics intervention (in collaboration with Probiotics Task Force) NEW

Background & Objectives
Individuals show a broad range of responses to dietary interventions and vary widely in their susceptibility to nutritional challenges or stressors. Consequently, anticipating individual-specific responses to a given pre- or probiotic intervention and selection of the most appropriate target population for demonstrating the benefits of such an intervention is challenging.
This activity will review state-of-the-art in silico, in vitro, and in vivo approaches for the rational design  and  testing of personalised interventions. The main objective is to provide a path forward, highlighting tools and approaches that enable personalised pre/probiotic interventions that improve human health and well-being.

Output
The outcome of this activity will be a perspective paper, expected to propose a way forward and novel approaches to optimize target population stratification for nutritional interventions based on individual gut microbiota differences.

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

Background & Objectives
Prebiotic compounds display great variability and so far, there is no clear conclusion about the relationship between structure-function.

The activity generally considers fermentable carbohydrates (prebiotics, candidate prebiotics and oligosaccharides) to:

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

Output
The outcome from this activity, in the form of a peer- reviewed paper, will support the understanding of how carbohydrate bioengineering tools to manufacture next generation prebiotics can be reasonably applied.

Joint Nutrition Cluster Activity on ‘Mechanistic Insights into the Gut-Brain Axis’ – In collaboration with Early Nutrition and Long-Term Health; Health Benefits Assessment of Foods; Nutrition, Immunity & Inflammation; Nutrition & Brain Health and Probiotics Task Forces

Background & Objectives
Currently, half of the literature available on the gut-brain axis is state-of-the-art reviews or correlative studies and comprehensive mechanistic insights underlining the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain are lacking.
In this context, several Nutrition Task Forces decided to join forces to understand where we stand today regarding the mechanisms. Together the Task Forces will:

  • focus on translational aspects from pre-clinical to clinical studies;
  • focus on lifespan-related changes (but not diseaserelated) in gut structure and function which play a role in long-term immune and brain health;
  • discuss the nutritional and lifestyle interventions with positive impact on the lifespan gut structure/function and thus on immune and brain health.

Output
A workshop held in December 2019 brought together key experts from different fields of expertise to debate and discuss on the current knowledge and data gaps.
A perspective paper on this gap analysis is under construction. This publication will be followed by a series of web-seminars to discuss the identified gaps in more details.

Revealing the Mechanistic Role in Human Physiology and Beneficial Aspects of Short Chain Fatty Acid (SCFA) Production in the Gastro-Intestinal Tract (GIT)Completed

Background & Objectives

Increased SCFA production from prebiotic consumption is considered as (part of) the mechanism through which prebiotics exert beneficial effects on gut health and metabolic function. Since SCFA production is often not considered as a health benefit as such, this activity is intended to:

  • review and evaluate coherent evidence of the beneficial action(s) of SCFAs,
  • clarify whether it is scientifically justified and appropriate to consider alterations in SCFA production as a health benefit/ biomarker;
  • and obtain a consensus view on microbial SCFA formation as a benefit for human physiology.

Output
The conclusions on the link between health and SCFA production were refined during the workshop ‘The Role of Gut Derived Short Chain Fatty Acids in Human Health’ (28-29 November, Brussels, Belgium). An enlarged panel of multidisciplinary experts contributed to this refinement.
These conclusions will provide guidance to facilitate the design and interpretation of academic and industrial prebiotic research. Furthermore, the consensus may support the development of health claims (procedures) on prebiotics.

Expert Group Members

Prediction of individual responses to prebiotics and probiotics intervention (collaboration with Probiotics Task Force)NEW

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

Joint Nutrition Cluster Activity on ‘Mechanistic Insights into the Gut-Brain Axis’In collaboration with Early-Life and Long-Term Health; Health Benefits Assessment of Foods; Nutrition, Immunity & Inflammation; Nutrition & Mental Performance and Probiotics Task Forces

Revealing the Mechanistic Role in Human Physiology and Beneficial Aspects of Short Chain Fatty Acid (SCFA) Production in the Gastro-Intestinal Tract (GIT) Completed

Posters

Understanding the Prebiotics Metabolic and Health Effects

Publications

All Publications

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Early Nutrition and Long-Term Health

Nutrition and Brain Health

Nutrition, Immunity and Inflammation

Prebiotics

Probiotics

GUT MICROBIOME AND HEALTH

The gut and brain link via various metabolic and signalling pathways, each with the potential to influence mental, brain and cognitive health. Over the past decade, the involvement of the gut microbiota in gut-brain communication has become the focus of increased scientific interest, establishing the microbiota-gut-brain axis as a field of research. There is a growing number of association studies exploring the gut microbiota's possible role in memory, learning, anxiety, stress, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Consequently, attention is now turning to how the microbiota can become the target of nutritional and therapeutic strategies for improved brain health and well-being. However, while such strategies that target the gut microbiota to influence brain health and function are currently under development with varying levels of success, still very little is yet known about the triggers and mechanisms underlying the gut microbiota's apparent influence on cognitive or brain function and most evidence comes from pre-clinical studies rather than well controlled clinical trials/investigations. Filling the knowledge gaps requires establishing a standardised methodology for human studies, including strong guidance for specific focus areas of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, the need for more extensive biological sample analyses, and identification of relevant biomarkers. Other urgent requirements are new advanced models for in vitro and in vivo studies of relevant mechanisms, and a greater focus on omics technologies with supporting bioinformatics resources (training, tools) to efficiently translate study findings, as well as the identification of relevant targets in study populations. The key to building a validated evidence base rely on increasing knowledge sharing and multi-disciplinary collaborations, along with continued public-private funding support. This will allow microbiota-gut-brain axis research to move to its next phase so we can identify realistic opportunities to modulate the microbiota for better brain health.

To download this open-access article, please click here.

This work was conducted in collaboration with the Early Nutrition and Long-Term Health, Nutrition and Brain Health, Nutrition, Immunity and Inflammation, Prebiotics and Probiotics Task Forces.

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Early Nutrition and Long-Term Health

Nutrition and Brain Health

Nutrition, Immunity and Inflammation

Prebiotics

Probiotics

GUT MICROBIOME AND HEALTH

The gut and brain link via various metabolic and signalling pathways, each with the potential to influence mental, brain and cognitive health. Over the past decade, the involvement of the gut microbiota in gut-brain communication has become the focus of increased scientific interest, establishing the microbiota-gut-brain axis as a field of research. There is a growing number of association studies exploring the gut microbiota's possible role in memory, learning, anxiety, stress, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Consequently, attention is now turning to how the microbiota can become the target of nutritional and therapeutic strategies for improved brain health and well-being. However, while such strategies that target the gut microbiota to influence brain health and function are currently under development with varying levels of success, still very little is yet known about the triggers and mechanisms underlying the gut microbiota's apparent influence on cognitive or brain function and most evidence comes from pre-clinical studies rather than well controlled clinical trials/investigations. Filling the knowledge gaps requires establishing a standardised methodology for human studies, including strong guidance for specific focus areas of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, the need for more extensive biological sample analyses, and identification of relevant biomarkers. Other urgent requirements are new advanced models for in vitro and in vivo studies of relevant mechanisms, and a greater focus on omics technologies with supporting bioinformatics resources (training, tools) to efficiently translate study findings, as well as the identification of relevant targets in study populations. The key to building a validated evidence base rely on increasing knowledge sharing and multi-disciplinary collaborations, along with continued public-private funding support. This will allow microbiota-gut-brain axis research to move to its next phase so we can identify realistic opportunities to modulate the microbiota for better brain health.

To download this open-access article, please click here.

This work was conducted in collaboration with the Early Nutrition and Long-Term Health, Nutrition and Brain Health, Nutrition, Immunity and Inflammation, Prebiotics and Probiotics Task Forces.

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Multimedia

'Understanding Prebiotic and Probiotic Mechanisms that Drive Health Benefits'
Watch the Webinar
'Webinar on Microbial Metabolism Associated with Health'
Watch the Webinar