ISAPP Expands and Expounds on Prebiotics

Guest BloggerClinical Corner, Market Trends

Garlic, onions, and chicory root among a few others: how often have we hoped for other options in the prebiotic toolbox for clients and consumers ?

Behold, our global experts are thinking outside the box:

“We anticipate that future prebiotic products will expand current applications, include products administered to many body sites and be developed as non-conventional (or novel) foods, pharmaceuticals or other categories.” — The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics.

In December 2016, twelve ISAAP experts from around the globe compiled this impressive treatise on the definition and scope of prebiotics. ISAPP functions as an independent, objective, science-based voice for the probiotic and prebiotic fields according to the paper.

The document is available for download at Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

The statement encompasses all aspects of prebiotics: evolution, effect, sources, impact on health, application in animals, stakeholder guidance and regulations. As such it is a primary source for anyone working in the synbiotic arena today.

Three significant updates or expansions:

  • Definition of a prebiotic: a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit (note: expansion beyond carbohydrates).
  • Impact outside the gut: vaginal tract and skin for example and beyond familiar bacterial taxa such as Roseburia, Eubacterium or Faecalibacterium spp.
  • Categories other than food: With more evidence, polyphenols and polyunsaturated fatty acids may meet the criteria for prebiotic.

Ultimately, write the authors, the goal of this Consensus Statement is to engender appropriate use of the term ‘prebiotic’ by relevant stakeholders so that consistency and clarity can be achieved in research reports, product marketing and regulatory oversight of the category.

The general thesis accepts that microbial populations can be targeted through prebiotic manipulation. Follows are a few of the topics covered in the paper:

Evolution of “prebiotics

Prebiotics were recognized officially only 20 years ago. Since then, fructans (fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin) and galactans (galactooligosaccharides or GOS) have been the dominant prebiotics for feeding Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium. Research advances now show further target ranges as well as sites of colonization.

Evolution of the term prebiotic is a fascinating look at how scientific concepts are shaped through research, malleable and exacting at the same time. Surely our present knowledge of both pre- and probiotics will look simplistic 20 years from now.

Importantly, substrates such as antibiotics, minerals, vitamins and bacteriophages are not prebiotics even though their intake might alter microbiota.

Prebiotic Utilization and Host Health

Prebiotic use within the gut could also extend to health benefits elsewhere in the body including blood brain barrier function, eczema, respiratory function, metabolic disease, including obesity and diabetes.

Also discussed is the variation in personal response to prebiotics. Genetic predisposition, types and numbers of colonies present, early modes of birth and feeding, antibiotics, disease status and adult diet, can all “influence the human microbiome and possibly the effects of prebiotic supplementation.”

Prebiotics in Animal Use

Our animals often eat more nutritiously than we do. The authors share a fascinating capsule look at animal digestion—not just our companions but the ones on our dining tables– and prebiotic influences. Pigs, calves, fowl, fish, horses, respond to prebiotics with various positive outcomes.

Stakeholders and Prebiotics

Crucial advice is included for stakeholders: consumers, suppliers, scientists, regulators, media, retailers and clinicians Whatever your role in sifting through prebiotic confusion, adherence to a common definition is primary:

  • Consumers should understand labels and know that one size does not fit all.
  • Media must not sensationalize studies.
  • Regulators should ensure safety and prevent fraud within the letter of their laws.
  • Scientists must design and aggregate quality research to confirm, as much as possible which means sometimes correlations are enough as in pharmaceuticals, a cause and effect between the prebiotic and the health benefit.
  • Suppliers should commit to high-quality research and accurate technical. End producers label with honesty.
  • Clinical workers and organizations will recommend based on current data.

Prebiotic Regulation

Lastly, prebiotic regulation is all over the map; countries and regions handle prebiotics differently. The paper explains a bit of the tangle of rules set forth by the European Union as well as the United States regarding prebiotics. Hint: if you are designing a label for your new product, invite your lawyer to the table.

“The field would greatly benefit from research focused on mechanisms of action, characterizing responders or non-responders, understanding how structure relates to function of prebiotic substances and correlating that function to health outputs.”

Growing pains are to be expected. Prebiotics are vital for optimum health and the coming years will clarify things. Stay tuned.