Raftilose Synergy1, an enriched inulin-composition patented by Belgian ingredient company Orafti, was shown, when taken with probiotics, to significantly limit damage to cell DNA.
Dr Anne Franck, executive vice president of science and technology at Orafti, said the research had demonstrated that the ingredient was "particularly effective in those who have had intestinal polyps removed."
The double-blind randomised placebo-controlled study involved 80 people who had either had intestinal polyps (precancerous lesions) removed or had been treated for colon cancer. Half of each group was given a placebo and the other half a symbiotic (12g/day Raftilose Synergy1 and probiotics Bifidobacterium bifidum BB12 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG). The trial volunteers consumed either the symbiotic or placebo everyday for 12 weeks.
Tissue, blood and faeces samples were taken before, during and after the trial and these samples were then examined by specialist teams to identify changes and differences between the groups.
The researchers found that in people with a high risk of colon cancer, those receiving the symbiotic treatment had significantly decreased damage to their cells' DNA, compared to those who consumed the placebo.
In addition, the people with colon cancer had an enhanced immune response, producing more interferon gamma which has antiviral activity and helps to avoid proliferation of potentially damaging cells. Cell proliferation of epithelial cells was reduced in the group taking synbiotics.
Synbiotics were also shown to protect the cells from potentially damaging substances which occur in the lower digestive tract and to reduce exposure to these substances from faecal water.
Finally, the study demonstrated a clear bifidogenic and prebiotic effect following consumption of the symbiotic, suggesting that it is possible to change positively the composition of the gut flora during long-term intervention, in this case 12 weeks.
"There were strong indications for a preventative action of the symbiotic combination, especially in the polypectomised patients where mainly mucosal markers indicated an increased protection against carcinogenesis. Immunological markers were also affected. In the cancer patients a positive effect on DNA damage was seen in the symbiotic group," concluded the researchers.
Raftilose Synergy1 is an enriched inulin-composition that contains chain lengths of inulin and oligofructose. Earlier studies have suggested that 8g/day of the ingredient provides a substantial increase of more than 20 per cent of the absorbed calcium from a daily diet.
Colorectal cancer currently accounts for approximately 500,000 deaths across the world per year, according to the World Health Organisation, and has been linked with a diet rich in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal proteins combined with low physical activity.