The pilot observational study, conducted in a small cohort of Japanese schoolchildren, was published recently in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. The research was conducted by authors associated with Taiyo International (which supported the research) and academic institutions in Japan.
Gut health components of autism
Gut dysbiosis and constipation are commonly observed in children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Sufferers of the disorder also display higher levels of inflammation than control populations.
The researchers wanted to see if Taiyo’s Sunfiber, a partially hydrolyzed guar gum prebiotic ingredient, could exert some positive effects in this arena. Specifically they wanted to see if it could ease the children’s constipation, which is easily measured. Also, via blood draws, they checked for levels of pro inflammatory cytokines and they did analyses of stool samples to see how the children’s microbiome changed with the intervention. Also, via a validated measurement tool called the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, Japanese Version, they sought to measure the children's’ level of irritability before and after the intervention.
A total of 13 children, aged 4 to 9, participated in the study. The children took 6 grams of the highly soluble and almost tasteless prebiotic fiber mixed into food or drink for a period of about two months. For nine of the children, blood was drawn before and after the supplementation period. And the parents of all of the children took a stool sample at the beginning and end of the study. The children’s behavior was evaluated at about the same time.
Less constipation, less irritability
The results of the study showed that the children increased their bowel movement frequency from about once a week for most of the children up to as much as four times a week by the end of the study. And the children’s irritability behaviors decreased, as measured by the checklist.
As far as the microbiome measurements were concerned, the intervention did show a clear trend in shifting the relative prevalence of species within the children’s guts. It also down regulated IL-1β, a pro inflammatory cytokine.
Derek Timm, PhD, Taiyo’s technical sales director said the results were a welcome addition to the growing evidence backing Sunfiber’s gut health benefits.
“We are of course not going to be saying that Sunfiber treats autism. But this study is important just from the greater literature standpoint for Sunfiber. And from a health care practitioner standpoint, it helps to have as much information as possible on how to deal with the comorbid conditions that come with autism,” Timm told NutraIngredients-USA.
“They might have another tool in their box to be able to deal with the constipation issues,” he said.
Pointing the way for more research
As the study was designed as a pilot trial, so not blinded and with no control group, Timm cautioned against extrapolating too far from the results. But it does add to the body of knowledge since, so far as is known, only one other study, published last year in the journal Microbiome, has looked into the possible effects of a prebiotic intervention with children on the autism spectrum.
That study used a galactooligosaccharide (GOS) ingredient administered to 30 children. It also included a diet modification component, which made the Taiyo study the first to look at the effect of a prebiotic fiber intervention by itself, Timm said.
“I think we were pretty confident that Sunfiber would show the observed laxative effect. But we were pleased with the differences in behavior and in the measurement of the cytokines,” he said.
“This was more of a proof of hypothesis study. The next step would be a more stringent study design, with a placebo group, and a positive control group, perhaps one with a non fermentable fiber to check out if these effects were just due to the laxative effect of dietary fiber in general,” Timm said.
Source: Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition
Dietary supplementation with partially hydrolyzed guar gum helps improve constipation and gut dysbiosis symptoms and behavioral irritability in children with autism spectrum disorder
Authors: Inoue R, et al.