Embarrassed by intestinal gas? Don’t worry, it could be healthy

By Tim Cutcliffe contact

- Last updated on GMT

Embarrassed by intestinal gas? Don’t worry, it could be healthy

Related tags: Nutrition

A fibre-containing beverage may help intestinal production of hydrogen, a gas with anti- inflammatory effects according to a Japanese study.   

“We  developed a beverage composed of cows’ milk with galactooligosaccharides (GOS), maltitol, and glucomannan (H2-producing milk),”​ commented the researchers from the Dairy Science and Technology Institute, Kyodo Milk Industry Company in conjunction with Keio University.

The study, published in Journal of Functional Foods, ​examined the functional milk’s capability of increasing the amount of hydrogen produced in the human intestine.

“A clinical trial was conducted to assess the effects of this experimental functional beverage, which confirmed that consumption of H2-producing milk induced higher H2 concentrations in the breath, including higher peak concentrations and persistence for a longer period of time, compared with consumption of H2 water and normal cows’ milk​,” wrote the team.

Evidence has emerged over the past decade, initially in animal studies, but also more recently in human trials, that hydrogen possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Previous research has shown hydrogen may have benefits in mitigating ischemia- reperfusion injury, preventing metabolic syndrome, protecting the central nervous system and countering the effects of free radicals.

Hydrogen delivery

Earlier work has also shown that hydrogen’s effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidative agent is limited by the ability to deliver it to where needed in the body.

Physiological delivery of hydrogen in earlier research has been via inhalation or ingestion of hydrogen water. The former requires specialist apparatus, while the latter results in a 30-minute residence time within the body, limiting its beneficial effects.

Animal studies have demonstrated that hydrogen produced by gut bacteria is transported to organs such as the liver. This led researchers to investigate the ingestion of dietary fibres as a longer lasting source of hydrogen production within the gut.

Study detail

A number of indigestible ingredients were analysed for their potential to produce hydrogen. A combination of dietary fibres was used as an individual’s hydrogen production capability differed depending on their microbiome composition. Hence, ingestion of a single fibre often did not induce enough hydrogen production.

“We searched for an efficient combination of dietary fibre based on this data and found that a combination of FOS, GOS, and glucomannan, as well as a combination of maltitol, GOS, and glucomannan were effective inducers of H2 gas production in all fecal samples,”​ the researchers wrote.

In clinical trials, the breath hydrogen concentration of most volunteers was increased by consumption of hydrogen-producing milk. The hydrogen content of breath is easily measured and has been shown in previous human research to correlate closely with intestinal production.

Other than mild flatulence symptoms, the hydrogen-producing milk had no side-effect.

The trial was an open-label type, therefore larger studies of RCT design are needed to provide further evidence of the efficacy of fibre-containing beverages to increase intestinal hydrogen production.

Source: Journal of Functional Foods

Published online ahead of print: doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2017.05.013

“Effects of functional milk containing galactooligosaccharide, maltitol, and glucomannan on the production of hydrogen gas in the human intestine”

Authors: Mitsuharu Matsumoto et al

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