Certainly the words probiotic and prebiotic are hot, but what do they mean and why their sudden popularity? In fact, the probiotics concept has been around for at least a century; however, in recent years is increasingly gaining popularity due to advancements in research and a growing understanding of how the gut also affects other areas of human health. There is a school of thought that says without good gut health, one cannot have overall good health. As a result, the new gut microbiome story is expanding and is not just about immune health any more. The gut health message now also includes among its growing list: cognition, mood, energy, skin health, weight management, regularity, heart and metabolic health. Helping to pave the way of this new gut health message are innovative companies like AIDP who are committed to the research of health and nutrition.
Gut health market is growing
In 2016 digestive health-positioned products grew 9% globally and reached approximately $55 billion in global retail sales. Digestive health is now the third largest product category in the worldwide health and wellness market. Furthermore, it is expected that the digestive health market will continue to grow another 38% from 2016 to 2021. 
The world is teeming with bacteria, but not all are the same bacteria that people associate with illness. Certain strains of bacteria are actually life-giving and are beneficial to human health. In a recent publication, the gut flora is estimated to contain about 0.2 kg worth or 40 trillion bacteria that line the intestinal tract and is estimated to represent up to 1,000 different species. That’s more gut bacteria cells than there are human cells by a factor of 1.3:1 [2,3]. There is strength in numbers, and so these bacteria, whether bad or good, can certainly impact the health of their human host.
Probiotics vs. prebiotics
Though similarly sounding, probiotics and prebiotics are not the same thing. Probiotics are good bacteria that keep the digestive system healthy by controlling growth of harmful bacteria and metabolizing otherwise unusable substances into beneficial nutrients for their human host. They consist of various strains from Lactobacillus which are found in yogurt and fermented foods, Bacillus which are found in soil, to Bifidobacteria which are naturally found in dairy products. Many probiotic strains are available as live culture, freeze dried culture, or spores. However, formulators should take care when designing, manufacturing, transporting, or considering long-term storage of a probiotic formula as their stability can be sensitive pertaining to temperature, water humidity, and multi-strain compatibility. Product developers should partner their proficiency with manufacturers or suppliers who have formulation expertise with the probiotic ingredients they offer.
Prebiotics, by contrast, include carbohydrates such as soluble fibers from plant foods that cannot be digested by the human body. These carbohydrates are used as food by beneficial probiotics encouraging them to multiply thereby improving the gut microbiome balance. Many prebiotic ingredients are quite stable across a wide range of pH and temperatures. Thus, they work well in various delivery formats either as a standalone ingredient, combined with other prebiotics, or when water activity is low enough, in symbiotic formulations which contain both probiotics and prebiotics together. For example, some prebiotics are sweet and available as syrup so can be used to lower the amount of sugar in nutrition bars due to their low calorie content and binding properties. There are widely available prebiotic supplements in the market like inulin, FOS, GOS, XOS and whole food based ingredients such as those made from kiwifruit.
Inulin & Fructooligosaccharide (FOS)
Inulin and fructooligosaccharide (FOS) are found naturally occurring in many plants. Both are quite similar in composition whereas they are polysaccharide chains consisting of repeating fructose subunits. The difference is that inulin is a longer chain than FOS. Studies demonstrate inulin and FOS to support growth of gut Bifidobacteria species and promote calcium absorption in the gut [4-9].
Xylooligosaccharide (XOS), a polysaccharide chain made of xylose subunits, is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, milk and honey and is shown through multiple studies to have profound prebiotic abilities. A human clinical trial by UCLA on the XOS ingredient PreticX™, establishes that doses as low as 1 gram per day could preferentially boost Bifidobacteria in the gut. The study also demonstrates that PreticX™ improves the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio which seems to suggest a possible application toward weight management through metabolic reconditioning [10, 11]. Furthermore, other studies support the ability of PreticX™ to improve biomarkers associated with heart and metabolic health — significantly decreasing blood serum triglyceride, cholesterol, and glucose concentrations [12, 13].
Galactooligosaccharide (GOS) is a polysaccharide chain consisting of galactose subunits. GOS is notably found and sourced from milk, but is also naturally occurring in other food sources. For example, AlphaGOS® is a well-studied fully plant-based form of GOS derived from peas. Studies demonstrate that AlphaGOS® promotes the proliferation of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli . Other studies show that GOS may also help increase the absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium in the gut [15, 16]. Furthermore, there is evidence that GOS modulates levels of short chain fatty acids which might help with appetite control. A clinical study on the GOS ingredient CravingZ’Gone® supports a positive effect on satiety and fullness for individuals on a low calorie diet .
Whole food based prebiotic ingredients from kiwifruit
Actazin® and Livaux™ are clinically proven cold-pressed powder whole kiwifruit concentrates that are natural sources of fibers, polyphenols and enzymes which support healthy bowel function and prebiotic benefits . Kiwifruit used in the production of these ingredients are locally sourced in New Zealand, non-GMO Project verified, gluten-free, and contain no added sugar or preservatives. The New Zealand farms get more sunlight than other areas thus expressing a special nutritional profile in the kiwifruit which is then processed with proprietary technology preserving these key nutrients. A human study demonstrates the kiwifruit ingredient prebiotic effects in boosting the beneficial probiotic Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (F.prau). F.prau is the most abundant bacteria species in the gut accounting for ~8% of the total colonic microbiota , but it is sensitive to oxygen and so it cannot be obtained through supplement probiotics.
Solutions include high quality, science-backed supplementation to optimize the gut flora
In a way, the gut flora is someone’s own unique and individualized bug collection. It is an evolving accumulation of both bad bugs and good bugs collected throughout one’s lifetime through their diet, lifestyle, and environment. Ideally a natural environment with a healthy exposure to a variety of bacteria and a diverse diet filled with whole foods consisting of nuts, fruits and vegetables high in fibers would give rise to an optimum gut flora.
Unfortunately, for many their current environment is no longer natural and consequently their gut flora no longer optimal. Limited exposure, sanitizers, antibiotics, and mass produced foods of today’s modern world are among the top influences that strip away gut flora density and diversity. Fortunately, advancements in gut health supplementation through probiotics and prebiotics are available to help recondition and restore the gut flora back to optimal health. Companies such as AIDP that specialize in science-proven ingredients offer a variety of high quality gut health ingredients that are designed to support the human microbiome, the key to overall human health.
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