Prebiotics: The Latest Food for Thought

Many health professionals have been paying a great deal of attention to prebiotics recently. Nestlé Peptamen® with FOS/Inulin is a tube-feeding/oral formula that offers the benefits of prebiotics. But what exactly is a prebiotic?

A prebiotic is a nondigestible food ingredient that helps restore and maintain friendly bacteria. These friendly bacteria often become damaged due to disease and the intake of medication.

Fructooligosaccarides (FOS) and Inulin are naturally occurring prebiotics found in foods such as tomatoes, bananas, onions and artichoke hearts. Both FOS and Inulin are broken down (fermented) in the colon (large intestine). Using a combination of FOS/Inulin, results in fermentation taking place throughout the colon1, maximizing gut-health benefits. Because it is a natural plant product that humans have been widely exposed to, the risk of allergic reaction or intolerance to its addition to foods is minimized significantly.

FOS and Inulin work by selectively promoting the growth of the beneficial bacteria in the colon.2,3,4 This ‘good’ bacterium discourages growth of harmful bacteria such as C. difficile and E. coli.5,6 FOS and Inulin fermented in the colon produce Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) and these enhance water, sodium, and electrolyte absorption from the gut and may help with diarrhea.

Prebiotics for Calcium Absorption

Studies show that prebiotics may also act as calcium absorption boosters. Recent research in adolescents indicates that FOS can enhance the bioavailability of calcium in humans, with no negative effect on the absorption of other minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc.8 Further studies are underway to confirm increased calcium absorption in children consuming foods with added FOS.9

In addition, a recent study compared the absorption of calcium of teenage girls between the ages of 11 and 14, who normally consumed a calcium-rich diet. While on the placebo, the girls’ 1300-milligram calcium diet resulted in 416 milligrams of absorbed calcium. While taking supplemental Inulin, absorption increased 18 percent, to an average of 494 milligrams. If the overall percent of absorption of calcium can be increased, this can have a significant impact on lowering a person’s risk for developing osteoporosis.10 Inulin has been shown to increase the absorption of other minerals as well, such as magnesium and iron.11,12

Prebioitics for Health

Any patients who are on antibiotics or who are on tube feeding for extended time periods may benefit from FOS/Inulin. Others who may benefit are those with diarrhea7, Crohn’s disease, short-bowel syndrome, malabsorption, radiation enteritis, chronic pancreatitis, delayed gastric emptying, HIV/AIDS, and cystic fibrosis.

As little as 4g/day of FOS has been shown to have a positive effect on colonic microflora.2,5 Nestlé Peptamen® with FOS/Inulin provides 4g of the unique blend of FOS/Inulin in 1000ml, to maximize gut-health. To find out more about Nestlé Peptamen with FOS/Inulin contact your Nestlé Nutrition Specialist or call 1-800-565-1871.

Want to learn about probiotics?

Prebiotics feed beneficial bacteria known as probiotics, learn more about probiotics in these articles:

Daniella Kassar, RD
First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 132 – July/August 2002
1. Data on file, Nestle SA, Vevey, Switzerland.
2. Roberfroid MB et al: Dietary Fructans. Annual Review of Nutrition 1998;18:117-43.
3. Data on file, Nestle SA, Vevey, Switzerland.
4. Gibon GR, et al:Selective stimulation of bifidobacteria in the human colon by oligofructose and inulin. Gastroenterology 1995; 108(4):975-82.
5. Roberfroid MB et al: The bifidogenic nature of chicory inulin and its hydrolysis products. Journal of Nutrition 1998;128:11-19.
6. Roberfroid MB, Functional effects of food components and the gastrointestinal system:chicory fructooligasaccarides, Nutrition Reviews 1996; 54:S38-S42.
7. Tomomatsu H. Health effects of oligosaccharides. Food Technology 1994;48:61-64.
8. Chaoi, C, and Saavedra,J.M. Rethinking “Fibre”in Pediatric Nutrition. Nestlé Nutrition Institute, 2001;8.
9. Abrams S. Griffin I. Abstract number 821:Calcium absorption is increased in adolescent girls receiving enriched inulin. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2000; 31: s210.
10. Abrams, Steven, et al: Paper at World Congress of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. August 2000.
11. Lopez, HW, et al: Fructooligosaccharides enhance mineral absorption and counteract the deleterious effects of phytic acid on mineral homeostasis in rats. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2000 Oct;11(10): 500-508.
12. Van den Heuvel EG; et al.: Nondigestible oligosaccharides do not interfere with calcium and nonheme-iron absorption in young, healthy men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998 Mar, 67:3, 445-51.