Review highlights ‘huge potential for postbiotics as the extension direction of probiotics’

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

© DrAfter123 / Getty Images
© DrAfter123 / Getty Images

Related tags postbiotics Probiotics microbiome

A new review comparing the available evidence for the efficacy of probiotics and postbiotics highlights the favourable stability and shelf life of postbiotics, but an observed “weaker influence”.

Balancing the safety concerns against performance differences in probiotics and postbiotics, a compromised and optimal prescription is urgent to be proposed when facing a specific patient’s state, which may lie in the combined administration of probiotics and postbiotics in appropriate proportion​,” wrote scientists from Nanchang University in Nutrients​.

The rise of biotics

Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”​ (FAO/WHO), while postbiotics were recently defined by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP)​ as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host”.

“Probiotics are commonly applied in medical devices, infant formulas, fermented dairy products, nutritional supplements, and “biotic” feed additives. Clinical potential has also been demonstrated through human studies and animal models, mainly gastrointestinal diseases involving lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional gastrointestinal disorders, or inflammatory bowel disease, but also extra-intestinal disorders such as hepatic encephalopathy,” ​the report stated.

The benefits observed with probiotics result from the probiotic-pathogen interactions which occur due to various mechanisms, such as the secretion of lactic acid, altering the pH of the environment, and reducing pathogenic species by competitive exclusion. As well as this, benefits are exerted by the maintenance of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine balance.

However, probiotics are susceptible to viability loss following processing methods that occur in many commercially available products, in addition to possible losses whilst travelling through unfavourable conditions within the stomach and small intestine. The researchers highlight the “narrow applications of probiotics” following these observations, limiting the scope of products for their utilisation.

Postbiotic argument

To contrast these pitfalls, “Postbiotics-based products would be long-lasting and extremely simple to standardize, making them easier to store, have a longer shelf life and facilitate logistics under extreme environmental conditions”, ​the report states.

Whilst benefits associated with epithelial fortification and modulation of immunity have been observed, the scientists draw attention to the “relatively weaker influence on the modulation of intestinal metabolism or gene expression affecting nutrition metabolism when compared with corresponding probiotics.

“For example, live cells of Bifidobacterium breve M-16V displayed enhanced immunomodulation effects in contrast to postbiotics, which is mainly reflected in the inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines in spleen cells and more significant alteration of intestinal metabolism​”, they explain.  

With regards to product applications, the report highlights that the traditional thermal processing utilised to create postbiotics can negatively impact quality and value of the final product, especially as a food supplement.

 “Through the combination of ​in vitro, in vivo, clinical studies, as well as biochemical evaluations, the more accurate mechanisms of postbiotics can be deeply explored”, ​the researchers emphasised, with regards to enabling for the future potential of postbiotics in the industry.

Source: Nutrients
“Postbiotics in Human Health: A Narrative Review”
Authors: L. Ma, et al.


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