Prebiotic approach proves positive for obesity prevention, review finds

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/Stuart Jenner
©iStock/Stuart Jenner
The case for a prebiotic approach as an alternative nutritional treatment against obesity has strengthened with the publication of a review that points to the food ingredient’s beneficial effects on metabolism.

Writing in Food Research International, ​South American researchers present evidence that prebiotics may be capable of decreasing lipopolysaccharide (LPS) levels and increase short chain fatty acid (SCFA) levels.

“The decrease in LPS levels contributes to the reduction of inflammatory processes while increased levels of SCFAs induce the production of hormones that favour intestinal permeability,”​ said the study team, led by Grethel T. Choque Delgado, who is based at the Department of Food Engineering at the National University of San Agustin of Arequipa in Perú.

“In addition, modulation of the microbiota leads to improvement in insulin resistance, glycaemic control and glucose tolerance, as well as reduction of tissue inflammation.”

Prebiotic interest gathers momentum

Prebiotics’ ease of use, coupled with a lack of significant side effects, have emerged as an ideal candidate to address the obesity epidemic, which has left no country unaffected.

The cases of obesity and overweight cause the death of at least 2.8 million people annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) show that about 39% of adults are overweight, 13% of whom are obese.

More than 41 million children under five years old were overweight in 2016.

As well as a decrease in LPS levels and increases in SCFA levels, the review points to a body of evidence that links the consumption of prebiotics to increased production of polyamines, improvement of motility and gastrointestinal function, reduction of cholesterol and stimulation of the local immune system.

The benefits tie in with recent industry activity as prebiotic firms look to harness its capabilities to services such as personalised gut testing​ and postal prebiotic assessments.

The service looks to carry out monthly microbiome testing to provide a ‘feedback loop’ that advises how much soluble fibre should be included in the diet.

Earlier this year, news of a low calorie prebiotic sweetener that could dent the industry’s use of sugar took another step forward after OptiBiotix Health revealed details of its latest taste study​.

Prebiotic has gathered momentum in recent years, likely triggered by larger organisations such as Beneo introducing new on-pack logos​ that recognise an achievable digestive health and wellness through prebiotic chicory root fibres.

Fructooligosaccharide power

The review’s authors build on the potential of chicory root fibres, including other Fructooligosaccharide (FOS)-containing plants such as Jerusalem artichoke and yacon root in their commentary as to their prebiotic potential.

“Large amounts of prebiotics are present in plants used in human food, such as chicory, yacon, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, honey, onion, garlic, barley and banana, among others,”​ said Delgado and Wirla M.S.C.Tamashiro, who works at the Department of Genetics, Evolution, Microbiology and Immunology, at the University of Campinas in Brazil.

The yacon, Andean root, has great prebiotic potential due to its high concentration of FOS and inulin that favour the expansion of intestinal microbiota more adequate.

The results of the regular consumption of this root led to the elevation of intestinal IgA levels in the absence of infection in mice​. 

Prebiotics for obesity prevention suggested

Short-chain Fructooligosaccharides (scFOS) were also featured in the review with evidence supporting the consumption of prebiotics modifies the composition of the intestinal microbiota and the metabolic parameters benefiting the host.

Studies​with obese mice showed a reduction of high insulin concentrations in the blood due to the consumption of short chain scFOS.

Other research cited demonstrate the beneficial effects to cardiovascular risk of food intake enriched with FOS, inulin and polyunsaturated fatty acid in obese men.

“The consumption of these functional components caused positive effects in the improvement of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and levels of C-reactive protein,”​ the research team stated.

“The use of prebiotics as potential therapeutic tool for the treatment and prevention of obesity is suggested,”​ the team concluded.

“Current literature has shown that regularization of the intestinal microbiota due to the consumption of prebiotics causes beneficial metabolic effects such as the decrease of LPS levels in the circulation and the increase of SCFAs.”

Source: Food Research International

Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2018.07.013

“Role of prebiotics in regulation of microbiota and prevention of obesity.”

Authors: Grethel Choque Delgado, Wirla M.S.C.Tamashiro 

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1 comment

What about FODMAP?

Posted by Chris Aylmer,

I wonder how this advice squares with those with IBS on a FODMAP diet, trying to avoid fructo-oligosaccharides and other short chain saccharides, which appear to exacerbate the symptoms of their disease. The prebiotic foods mentioned in this article are all the foods they are advised to avoid. Could eating too much of them induce IBS in otherwise disease-free people? Or could avoiding them cause obesity in IBS patients?

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