What’s the Latest in Prebiotic Research? – May 2024 Edition

Maternal prebiotic supplementation during pregnancy and lactation modifies the microbiome and short chain fatty acid profile of both mother and infant

The first few years of infancy are critical for a healthy gut microbiome development. To promote a favorable community of maternal gut microbiota for early-life infant exposure, modulating the maternal diet using prebiotics makes an attractive strategy, supporting infant gut microbiome development and long-term immune, metabolic, and neurological health. As such, this double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial investigated the effects of a maternal daily supplementation with galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) from <21 weeks of gestation until six months following delivery. Pregnant women were allocated to consume 14.2 g/day of GOS:FOS (9:1 ratio) powder or 8.7 g/d of maltodextrin (placebo). Stool samples were collected from 65 mother-infant pairs at five timepoints during pregnancy and in the post-natal period, and at four timepoints during the first year of the infant’s life. The study found significant differences in the maternal microbiota beta diversity profiles of prebiotic-supplemented women at 28 weeks or 36 weeks of gestation compared to baseline. Beta diversity of infants’ microbiota significantly differed between prebiotic and placebo groups at 12 months of age. There was a significant increase in the abundance of Bifidobacterium and the concentration of acetate in the prebiotic group during pregnancy. The study revealed that maternal prebiotic supplementation affects the composition of the infant microbiome, including a significant decrease in the abundance of Negativicutes when compared to the placebo group. Overall, these results support the possibility of modifying infant microbiome development during pregnancy and breastfeeding by changing the maternal gut microbiome.

Key takeaways:

  • The use of prebiotics in the maternal diet can help modulate a healthy gut microbiome for infants, leading to better long-term health.
  • The prebiotic group experienced a notable rise in Bifidobacterium abundance and acetate concentration.
  • Infants whose mothers received the prebiotic supplement had a lower abundance of Negativicutes compared to those who received a placebo.
  • Modifying the maternal gut microbiome during pregnancy and breastfeeding can affect the development of infants’ microbiome.

Access to the study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38452522/ 

Reference: Jones, J. M., Reinke, S. N., Mousavi-Derazmahalleh, M., Garssen, J., Jenmalm, M. C., Srinivasjois, R., Silva, D., Keelan, J., Prescott, S. L., Palmer, D. J., & Christophersen, C. T. (2024). Maternal prebiotic supplementation during pregnancy and lactation modifies the microbiome and short chain fatty acid profile of both mother and infant. Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), 43(4), 969–980. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2024.02.030

Effects of soluble dextrin fiber from potato starch on body weight and associated gut dysbiosis are evident in Western diet-fed mice but not in overweight/obese Children

Obesity is a public health concern, significantly exacerbating morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs worldwide by affecting the development of various pathological conditions, including cardiovascular disorders, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. In 2020, 39 million children aged <5 years were either overweight or obese. An obesogenic Western diet (WD), comprised of high-calorie, high-fat, high-refined carbohydrate, and low-digestible fiber, plays a critical role in modulating the gut microbiome. Prebiotic-rich foods may beneficially modulate the gut microbiome, potentially preventing or treating overweight and obesity. This study assessed the effect of potato starch soluble dextrin fiber (SDexF) as a prebiotic on obesity management in mice and overweight and obese children. One hundred overweight/obese children were randomly assigned to prebiotic and control groups, consuming fruit and vegetable mousses with or without 10 g of SDexF for 24 weeks. In the animal study, 48 C57BL6/W mice were on a normal diet (ND) and 48 on the WD with or without 5% SDexF supplementation for 28 weeks. In the human study, SDexF did not influence weight loss or the microbiota composition, with minimal changes observed in individual taxa. In the animal study, SDexF slowed weight gain in female mice on both ND and WD diets but only temporarily in the male mice. More research is warranted to investigate SDexF supplementation benefits in obesity-targeting interventions.

Key takeaways:

  • SDexF is a short-chain glucose polymer obtained from the modification of potato starch. 
  • The study investigated the effects of SDexF on gut microbiota and metabolic markers in mice and human participants affected by overweight or obesity.
  • SDexF showed sex-specific effects in mice but not humans, slowing weight gain in female mice and only temporarily in males.
  • SDexF did not affect weight loss or microbiota composition in overweight/obese children.

Access to the study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38612951/ 

Reference: Czarnowski, P., Bałabas, A., Kułaga, Z., Kulecka, M., Goryca, K., Pyśniak, K., Unrug-Bielawska, K., Kluska, A., Bagińska-Drabiuk, K., Głowienka-Stodolak, M., Piątkowska, M., Dąbrowska, M., Żeber-Lubecka, N., Wierzbicka-Rucińska, A., Kotowska, A., Więckowski, S., Mikula, M., Kapuśniak, J., Socha, P., & Ostrowski, J. (2024). Effects of Soluble Dextrin Fiber from Potato Starch on Body Weight and Associated Gut Dysbiosis Are Evident in Western Diet-Fed Mice but Not in Overweight/Obese Children. Nutrients, 16(7), 917. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu16070917 

Gut microbiome-targeted nutrition interventions and growth among children in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Childhood malnutrition is a public health concern globally, with higher prevalence in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where it affects 149 million children under five years of age. Malnutrition is associated with impaired gut microbiome development, and children in LMICs are especially susceptible to gut microbiome perturbations due to living conditions with poor water and sanitation, inadequate dietary intake, and high prevalence of infectious diseases. Gut microbiome dysbiosis in children with malnutrition may limit the effects of nutrition interventions to promote growth and enhance recovery. This systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated the effects of gut microbiome-targeting nutrition interventions on growth outcomes among newborns and children under 59 months of age using published studies from LMICs. Three databases, including PubMed, Google Scholar, and the Cochrane Library, were searched from inception to July 2023, retrieving 35 studies with 11,047 children. The qualitative synthesis revealed that 55.6% of prebiotic studies, 66.7% of probiotic studies, 71.4% of synbiotic studies, and 28.6% of microbiome complementary-feed studies showed significant effects on growth outcomes. Nine prebiotic studies were included in the systematic review, which used fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), rice bran, and rice or oat cereal as prebiotics. Prebiotics exhibited heterogeneity in the results but had significant positive effects on ≥1 growth outcome relative to the control groups. Five prebiotic trials reported significance, including three in healthy children and two in children with undernutrition. Overall, the relative effectiveness of interventions showed dependence on the participating children’s health status. Future studies should aim for controlled trials with long durations and follow-up periods and controlled baseline characteristics, including antibiotic and breastmilk exposure, which are potential confounding factors. 

Key takeaways:

  • This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the evidence on the dietary nutrition interventions targeting child gut microbiome and assess the effectiveness of the interventions on growth performance.
  • The systematic review included 35 studies, comprised of 11,047 children aged 0 to 5 years, published in LMICs.
  • The prebiotic studies included showed a significant effect on weight gain.
  • Future studies that include controlled trials with longer durations, observation periods, and controlled baseline characteristics to minimize confounding are warranted.

Access the study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38455707/ 

Reference: Addae, H. Y., Apprey, C., & Kwarteng, A. (2024). Gut Microbiome-Targeted Nutrition Interventions and Growth among Children in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Current developments in nutrition, 8(3), 102085. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cdnut.2024.102085 

Acacia fiber or probiotic supplements to relieve gastrointestinal complaints in patients with constipation-predominant IBS: a 4-week randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled intervention trial

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal condition affecting 10 to 20% of the world’s population, with 30% of people with IBS experiencing pre-dominant constipation complaints (IBS-C). IBS-C is characterized by abdominal pain as in regular IBS, in addition to the added burden of constipation represented by straining, hard stools, infrequent bowel movements, and compromised quality of life (QoL). Individuals with IBS often display varying symptoms over time, indicating complex pathology and unclear mechanisms, which currently remain without adequate treatment options. This randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled parallel trial investigated the effects of 4-week supplementation with either acacia fiber (AF) or a probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis (BLa80) supplement on stool frequency, stool consistency, stool mass, IBS-C related gastrointestinal complaints, and QoL as compared to the placebo. One hundred eighty IBS-C patients received one of 10 g of AF, 4 g (2 × 1011 CFU/g) probiotic BLa80, or 10 g of maltodextrin placebo daily for four weeks. Stool mass was measured five days before and after the intervention. The subjects also reported daily information on stool patterns and gastrointestinal complaints, and completed questionnaires on symptom severity, constipation symptoms, anxiety and depression, and QoL. The study revealed that the groups treated with AF and BLa80 exhibited a significant improvement in stool frequency as compared to placebo. However, no significant changes were reported in constipation symptoms, stool consistency, stool mass, or QoL measures. After 4-weeks of consuming AF, analysis of delta values showed an average increase of ∆1.3 (±1.9) stools per week. This increase exceeded the threshold established by the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a clinically meaningful change of more than one stool per week in IBS-C patients.

Key takeaways:

  • IBS-C has no adequate treatment currently available. 
  • Prebiotic fibers and probiotic compounds have shown promise in relieving IBS-C-related complaints. 
  • The study showed that 4-week daily supplementation with 10 g AF or 4 g (2 × 1011 CFU/g) probiotic BLa80 have beneficial effects on stool frequency in IBS-C patients.
  • The effects of AF on stool frequency exceeded the clinically meaningful threshold of a change in more than one stool/week set by the US FDA, with an average of 1.3 (±1.9). 

Access the study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38653808/ 

Reference: JanssenDuijghuijsen, L., van den Belt, M., Rijnaarts, I., Vos, P., Guillemet, D., Witteman, B., & de Wit, N. (2024). Acacia fiber or probiotic supplements to relieve gastrointestinal complaints in patients with constipation-predominant IBS: a 4-week randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled intervention trial. European journal of nutrition, 10.1007/s00394-024-03398-8. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-024-03398-8