Probiotics and Prebiotics: Unfolding Prospects for Better Human Health
C.C. Ogueke, C.I. Owuamanam, N.C. Ihediohanma and J.O. Iwouno
Some bacteria have been perceived to promote good health of the host and thus are beneficial to host health. These have been called probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria have been identified as probiotics. These bacteria when ingested change the composition of the intestinal microflora. Various beneficial effects are attributable to the consumption of these bacteria. These include prevention of diarrhea, immune system stimulation and prevention of colon cancer. However, their presence in the gut may be transient thus requiring a permanent implantation and colonization. Thus the concept of prebiotics. Prebiotics are non digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon and thus improve host health. Prebiotics selectively stimulate the growth of probiotics resident in the gut especially bifidobacteria through the production of beta-fructosidase, therefore changing the colonic microflora to a healthier composition. Prebiotics are non digestible oligosaccharides especially fructooligosaccharides. Some beneficial effects attributed to consumption of prebiotics include modulation of lipid metabolism through fermentation and increasing the absorption of minerals such as Ca and Mg from the colon. However, research data available show that the growth of lactobacilli is not selectively stimulated by the prebiotics. There is therefore need to conduct more research to determine the role of bacteriocins they produce in their ability to colonize the gut.