“The goal is to crystallise existing consensus..."

ILSI Europe establishes prebiotic and probiotic groups


- Last updated on GMT

The groups seek to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals
The groups seek to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals

Related tags Gut flora

The European branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) has established separate working groups to investigate the microbiota, mechanisms of action and intestine barrier function.


A probiotic working group has just completed and now ILSI has established two more:

  • Mechanisms of Probiotic Activity
  • Probiotics: Interplay with the Intestine Barrier Function

Of the mechanisms of action group ILSI said, Experts will review and evaluate the latest data on probiotic mechanisms. The activity will also focus on particular health benefits and the physiological sites of action chosen for the project.”

Conditions like respiratory tract infections, antibiotic associated diarrhoea and atopic eczema will be investigated.

It will finish by attempting to publish in a high impact journal.”
The Intestine Barrier Function group will focus on three areas of probiotic-led research:

  • Gut barrier defence and related biomarkers
  • Deficiencies in gut barrier defence and links to disease
  • Probiotics and prebiotics as interventions to enhance gut barrier function

The group aims to “determine the state-of-the-art in intestinal barrier function and its role in health and disease and to investigate the potential impact of probiotics (direct and indirect) on intestinal barrier function.”

“The goal is to crystallise existing consensus, if any, in treatment modalities, to harmonise the validation of markers, and to pinpoint most relevant areas for future research.”



Two prebiotic groups have been formed, both microbiota focused.

One will examine the molecular structure of prebiotic compounds on the microbiota 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
  • Consider potential direct effects (without being fermented first) on the host as a secondary objective.

“As investigating prebiotics/carbohydrates induced microbiota changes is more promising than assessing corresponding health effects, the project is mainly focused on the overall orogastro-intestinal microbial activity and its metabolic capacity in order to metabolise these compounds,”​ ILSI said.

“The activity aims to identify relevant gaps in research and to provide a guidance document that assists the characterisation of prebiotic structures for future physiological effect studies. This project should be a first step in defining structure-function relations between prebiotics and beneficial effects for the host.”

The other group hones in on ‘gut microbiota clusters’ in relation to metabolic effects and is being conducted in conjunction with ILSI’s Functional Foods Task Force​.

The group will analyse metabolic pathways of nutrients, their correlation with the microbiota and the requirements needed to analyse these pathways.

It is expected a first review paper will collect existing data on what is known on correlation and causality and map hypotheses and evidence about dietary substrates. A second paper will analyse methodologies and look for plausible mechanisms.

A workshop for the groups will be held in December 2015. More information here​.

There are no approved pure prebiotic or probiotic health claims in the EU and the terms are classified as unauthorsied implied health claims and therefore banned across the bloc's 27 member states. 

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