Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect a person by stimulating the growth and/or activity of bacteria in the colon. The bacteria they stimulate to grow can contain health promoting properties which can help maintain a healthy digestive system. Some examples of foods containing prebiotics are fruits, vegetables, cereals and other edible plants (1). Some prebiotics can be made artificially and can be taken in supplement form. Some common prebiotics include arabinoxylan, fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin, arabinogalactan, polydextrose, lactulose and lactitol.
There are many different types of prebiotics, and depending on what prebiotic someone takes, they will result in the stimulation of different gut bacteria. Prebiotics help the digestive system as they can reduce the intestinal pH and maintain water retention in the bowel, allowing for a more solid stool. Prebiotics, as mentioned, are not digested and so they reach the colon in a mostly unaltered form, where they are fermented by bacteria (2). One of the main mechanisms that makes prebiotics so beneficial is their ability to increase the production of short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids are involved in maintaining a healthy immune system and inflammatory response. These fatty acids have also been reported to have cholesterol lowering effects (3).
Current evidence suggests that prebiotics can help the absorption of specific minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. Prebiotics have been seen as beneficial for calcium absorption in various different age groups. The evidence is still emerging in this topic, but the data that is available suggests that bone-related prebiotic effects exist across the lifecycle, suggesting they could be used for attaining strong bone mass during adolescence and minimize bone mass loss among postmenopausal women (4).
Research into the benefits of prebiotics is ongoing but some studies have reported that consuming prebiotics may help weight loss, improve glycemic control for people with type 2 diabetes, and reduce Crohn’s disease related symptoms. Another emerging area of research has reported a positive effect of prebiotics on cancer, meaning they may help reduce an individual's chance of developing cancer (2).
Our products Super Milled Grains, Morning Glory Grains, and Whole Fibre Grains all contain prebiotics. These products also contain a specific fibre called arabinoxylan oligosaccharides. This type of fibre can be very beneficial to those suffering with digestive issues such as cramping, and abdominal pain. Some studies have even noticed that grains rich in arabinoxylan oligosaccharides may have antioxidant properties (5).