13 March 2014

Prebiotics and probiotics

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Probiotics are viable microorganisms that survive passage through the gut and exert positive effect on the consumer. According to the currently adopted definition by FAO/WHO, probiotics are: "Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host".

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifido bacteria are the most conventional types of microbes used as probiotics; but certain yeasts and bacilli may also be useful. Many species of lactic acid bacteria and fungi are used in the form of capsules, tablets and sachets. Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures like yogurt, soy yogurt, cheese, jellies. Researches into the benefits of probiotics suggest a range of possibly favorable medicinal uses like prevention of diarrheal diseases, cancer prevention, lipid lowering, and enhancement of immune responses.

Prebiotics are non digestible carbohydrates that selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial microbes. It is believed that a prebiotic should increase the number and/or activity of microorganism. The most predominant forms of prebiotics are nutritionally categorized as soluble fiber. Adequate scientific evidences exist for the beneficial effects of prebiotics such as improved bowel function, cancer prevention, and lipid lowering effect. More widely used prebiotics are whole cereals, onion, garlic, honey.

Synbiotics is the term used to describe foodstuffs in which the prebiotic compound selectively supports the probiotic compound.

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