Spruce extract could be ‘untapped’ prebiotic

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Spruce extract could be ‘untapped’ prebiotic

Related tags Probiotic Gut flora

An extract from spruce (Picea abies) may selectively enhance the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and offer a novel prebiotic for the nutritional products, says a new study.

Finnish scientists report that hemicelluloses extracts from spruce could stimulate the growth of B. lactis​ Bb12, B. longum​, and L. rhamnosus​ GG in lab tests.

“These bacteria, which are among the most common used probiotics, started to grow faster, reached higher concentrations and also stayed viable for longer periods,”​ they wrote in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry​.

“Hemicellulose is an untapped natural resource, which can be produced economically in large quantities,”​ they added.

“Therefore, the study of probiotics and hemicellulose together could also have potential for synbiotic formulations.”


The study shows a bacteria-boosting effect in lab tests and the actual prebiotic activity of the ingredients is still to be shown.

Prebiotics are defined as “non-digestible (by the host) food ingredients that have a beneficial effect through their selective metabolism in the intestinal tract”​ (Gibson et al. 2004).

Study details

The Finnish researchers extracted specific hemicelluloses called galactoglucomannan from spurce – these are the second most common group of polysaccharides in nature, they noted.

The results showed that Bifidobacterium species were able to ferment the spruce-derived galactoglucomannan.

In addition, the amount of viable bacteria was almost 100 times higher in the samples exposed to galactoglucomannan than the control samples, said the researchers.

“This shows that bifidobacteria not only started to proliferate earlier and reached higher concentration, but they also remained viable for a longer period when there was galactoglucomannan added in medium.”

According to the researchers, the bifido-boosting potential of galactoglucomannan are comparable to those observed with established prebiotics like fructooligosaccharide.

“An assessment of the components as potential ingredients in foods needs to be completed,”​ they added.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Published online ahead of print, Article ASAP, doi: 10.1021/jf303741h
“Galactoglucomannan Extracted from Spruce (Picea abies) as a Carbohydrate Source for Probiotic Bacteria”
Authors: L. Polari, P. Ojansivu, S. Makela, C. Eckerman, B. Holmbom, S. Salminen

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