Conducted by Prof Tamàs Decsi, of the department of paediatrics in Clinical Center of the University of Pécs, the randomised, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled trial of 258 healthy children revealed that regular consumption of prebiotic chicory root fibre kept the level of beneficial Bifidobacteria higher and more stable, reducing the antibiotic-induced disturbances of the microbiota composition.
Commissioned by functional food ingredients firm Beneo, this study is the first of its kind to provide an in-depth investigation into the effect of prebiotic chicory root fibre supplementation on the gut microbiota of children aged 3 to 6, including those undertaking antibiotic treatment.
Anke Sentko, vice president regulatory affairs and nutrition communication at Beneo, said: “The recently published results prove that prebiotic chicory root fibre intake selectively increases beneficial bifidobacteria in children aged 3 to 6 years old.
"Even under antibiotic treatment, their microbiota is more stable and balanced. Enriching a child’s nutrition with prebiotic chicory root fibre (inulin and oligofructose) is an easy and tasty way to boost their inner defence by supporting their beneficial bacteria.”
The supplementation of 6g chicory root fibre (Beneo’s oligofructose-enriched inulin Orafti and its oligofructose Orafti) was studied over a 24-week period during winter, with Maltodextrin used as the control.
The 6g dosage was estimated as an effective and well tolerated intake for this age group based on the data available from 0 to 3 years of age.
In general, the children undergoing antibiotic treatment showed a reduction of microbiota, including bifidobacteria. However, those children also receiving the prebiotic supplementation demonstrated a significantly higher presence of bifidobacteria versus the control.
The results build on previous studies showing the importance of prebiotics to maintaining good bacteria in the gut. A previous study demonstrated significantly reduced fibril episodes and sinusitis cases resulting from prebiotic chicory root fibre supplementation in young children, aged between 3 and 6 years old.
A meta-analysis by Lohner et al (2014) covering studies with children from 0-24 months of age conducted by the University of Pécs (Hungary) and the German Cochrane Centre, concluded a statistically significant decrease in the number of infectious episodes requiring antibiotic therapy in the prebiotics group vs placebo control.
Researchers are also looking into potential allergic disease prevention with prebiotics (Cuello-Garcia et al. 2016).
Lasting health impact
Sentko added that these findings are particularly important as early disturbances in microbiota composition can have a lasting effects on the child's health.
“Today we know much more than we did 10 years ago about the highly influential role of what we and our babies eat and what this means for our children’s health status later in life – metabolic programming is the key word here.
"We know that Bifidobacteria are a dominant part of the microbiota in breastfed infants and thus prebiotics, i.e. those nutrient compounds that promote the selective growth of Bifidobacteria, indeed are very significant.
"Young children are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases during the winter months that often need to be treated with antibiotics, which are known to significantly damage the microbiota.
"This kind of early disturbance of the microbiota composition can create an imbalance in the gut which may affect health in later years."
She adds that inulin and oligofructose are the only plant-based prebiotics clinically proven to encourage positive modulation of the microbiota composition.
"Beneo’s oligofructose-enriched inulinand its oligofructose are used in many of the infant and small children studies.
"They are key ingredients for infant food manufacturers already and will further grow as more and more manufacturers want to provide more than the simple elementary needs (like protein, vitamins, minerals…) for the child."
Source: Beneficial Microbes
Published online: DOI 10.3920/BM2018.0116
"Prebiotic supplementation over a cold season and during antibiotic treatment specifically modulates the gut microbiota composition of 3-6 year-old children"
Authors: Soldi.S., et al