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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Shih, Frederick

Submitted to: Nahrung Foods
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/10/2003
Publication Date: 12/1/2003
Citation: Shih, F.F. 2003. Probiotics and prebiotics as functional food ingredients. Nahrung Foods.

Interpretive Summary: We live in a world of unhealthy conditions. Diets that are high in fat, alcohol, drugs, processed foods, and life styles that are full of stress can upset the balance between good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract and make us sick. Probiotics are viable bacteria that are beneficial to human health, whereas, prebiotics are food sources that are preferentially chosen by the beneficial bacteria. It is believed that nurturing the body's naturally occurring bacteria and maintaining a strong digestive system is the key to achieve good health, and to do that, we need food supplements such as the probiotic and prebiotic food ingredients. The report reviews and discusses how and why probiotics and prebiotics can promote good health and reduce the risk of disease. The new development introduces challenges and also creates opportunities for food scientists to improve food quality and develop new products with specific health benefits. It will have a positive impact on the food and health industry, and ultimately, the well-being of the general public.

Technical Abstract: By definition, a probiotic is a viable microbial dietary supplement that beneficially affects the host through its effects in the intestinal tract; and a prebiotic is a nondigestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon. Probiotics and prebiotics could enhance physiologic functions benefiting health or preventing disease and be classified as functional food ingredients. Several probiotics microbial strains have been characterized, and health effects associated with the intake of these probiotics have been reported in human studies; including alleviation of lactose intolerance, immune enhancement, and decrease in fecal enzymes and mutagenicity. On the other hand, inulin-type fructans, as the prototypes of prebiotics, survive mostly undigested in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and serve as "colonic food" to bifidobacteria in the large bowel; resulting in its enhance-growth and the concomitant reduction of pathogenic bacteria, such as fusobacteria. The use of probiotics and prebiotics offers new opportunities for the development of functional food and other nutrition products. It will have a positive impact on the food and health industry, and ultimately, the well-being of the populace.

Last Modified: 06/28/2017
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