Printer Friendly

Multifunctional ingredients for gut health: specialty carbohydrates as prebiotics.

Gut Health

Both the biological and medical communities are now realizing the significance of the role of the large intestine in both health and disease. Many scientific advances during the past 10-20 years have altered the perception that the large intestine is simply an organ for the storage and secretion of waste matter--with its main function being the absorption of water and other nutrients. Recently, it has become recognized that this organ can make a significant contribution to both nutrition and metabolism, owing to the profuse microbiota resident in the human colon. (1) Rapid advances have been made as a result of modern molecular-based techniques that characterize the composition of the bacterial mass and will lead to greater understanding of the biological functions of this organ.


The definition of a prebiotic is "a non-viable component of the diet that reaches the colon in an intact form and is selectively fermented by colonic bacteria." (2) The so-called selectivity is defined by commensal bacteria already resident in the gut that are thought to have beneficial properties to the host regarding health and well-being. Examples of such bacteria include Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, both of which are present in significant numbers. Health is improved by the fortification of such bacteria.

Maintaining a Healthy Balance

We know that certain gut species are pathogenic, but also that a number of resident bacteria found in the human colon may be of some benefit to the host's health. This recognition has led to dietary strategies to increase the numbers and activities of these 'friendly' bacteria. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics are all ways of improving host health through the fortification of selected bacteria in the gut. Evidence from in vitro and in vivo studies has suggested that saccharides such as lactitol and non-digestible polysaccharides such as Litesse are valuable as prebiotics.

Lactitol as an Emerging Prebiotic

Formulating foods with lactitol is relatively simple because its technical properties are similar to sucrose. This makes lactitol one of the most versatile emerging prebiotics available. As a direct consequence of the fermentation of lactitol in the colon, intraluminal pH is reduced, probiotic bacteria are increased and potential pathogens are significantly reduced.

Lactitol is a reduced calorie sweetener that is metabolized independently of insulin and can be used in many confectionery, baked goods and dairy applications. It has very similar technical and handling properties to those of sucrose, and is suitable for the development of sugar free, reduced calorie and low glycaemic products.

Lactitol reaches the colon undigested where it is used as an energy source by intestinal microflora such as Lactobacilli and Bibfidobacteria. The fermentation of lactitol favours the growth of saccharolytic bacteria and decreases the amount of proteolytic bacteria such as Gram-negative Bacterioides, Enterobacteria, Enterococci and various Coliform species, by inhibiting the adhesion of these bacteria to the epithelial cell walls and creating a low pH. (3-5) Bifidobacteria also produce organic acids such as acetic and lactic acid which limit the growth of putrefactive and pathogenic bacteria. These bacteria are responsible for the production of undesirable enzymes such as [beta]-glucuronidase, nitroreductase and azoreductase, phenolic products, amines and endotoxins, all of which have been linked to various cancers and ulcerative colitis. (6) Reducing the colonies of such bacteria can only positively influence the health of humans and animals.

The fermentation of lactitol by Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species lowers the pH of the intestine because of the production of butyrate (butyric acid). This fermentation also generates other short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that are thought to help protect and repair the intestinal wall. The SCFA are thought to stimulate cell division, which can mediate the regeneration of the epithelial cells in the intestinal wall--the colonic epithelial cells deriving their energy solely from SCFA. Butyrate is a preferred energy source for these cells and indirectly prevents colonic mucosal reduction, which can occur in cases of starvation. SCFA are also thought to stimulate apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death and is the body's way of eliminating cells that are deleterious to the health of that area.

Lactitol has also been tested in vivo, both in humans and animals. Stool samples and faecal material was retrieved from the test subjects to determine the presence of micro-organisms, short chain fatty acid compounds, faecal pH, moisture, and the activity of certain enzymes. (7-9) These data confirmed the results of the in vitro studies.

Lactitol Applications

Lactitol can be easily administered in a variety of high quality applications, including tooth-friendly, no sugar added, reduced calorie and low glycaemic products. This allows product innovation with lactitol into even broader health and product categories. Lactitol is derived from the disaccharide lactose, by hydrogenation, and has a similar molecular weight to sucrose, so many of its physical properties, such as solubility, viscosity, boiling point elevation and freezing point depression, are very similar to those of sucrose. This means that lactitol can successfully replace sucrose in most applications. Other prebiotic materials may be restricted in their application because of solubility, pH and temperature stability issues.

A Source of Soluble Dietary Fibre

Litesse behaves like a resistant oligo- or polysaccharide and the associated physiological benefits include fermentation in the lower gastrointestinal tract, production of short chain fatty acids, faecal bulking, reduced transit time and low glycaemic index. (10) In some countries, including Japan and China, Litesse has been recognized for many years as a valuable source of dietary fibre. It can be used at high enough levels in many applications so that fibre claims are possible.


A study in China--using 120 subjects who consumed 4, 8 and 12 g per day of Litesse--showed positive physiological effects, such as significantly improved bowel function, no issues with abdominal distention/cramps, diarrhoea or hypoglycaemia, a decrease in bacteroides concentration and an increase in Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. (11) In addition, an increase in the faecal wet and dry weight and a decrease in faecal pH proportional to the intake of Litesse, and an increase in the production of short chain fatty acids--notably butyrate, isobutyrate and acetate--was also recorded. Litesse is also non-glycaemic.

A Multifunctional Ingredient

Litesse is a polysaccharide that is not digested by human digestive enzymes. It is not sweet and has only 1 kcal/g, and it can reduce fat and replace sugar in many applications. In some applications, such as reduced fat pastry, Litesse has a similar functionality to fat but without the calories. (12) In dairy and frozen desserts, for example, it can be used as a stabilizer and fat mimetic. In physiological terms, Litesse has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels and is metabolized independently of insulin, contributing only one quarter the calories of sugar. (13)

Litesse and Calcium Absorption

A study by Hara et al. has shown that dietary Litesse (5%) increased calcium absorption and bone mineralization in rats. (14) The feeding of Litesse for 21 days increased the bone calcium concentration and apparent calcium absorption when compared with the control or guar-gum hydrolysate-fed rats. An acute Litesse supplementation also increased calcium absorption in the small intestine in vitro. On the basis of in vivo and in vitro rat trials, dietary Litesse may also have the potential to increase calcium absorption in humans.


(1.) G. Macfarlane and G.R. Gibson, "Metabolic Activities of the Normal Colonic Flora," in S.A.W. Gibson (Ed.), Human Health: The Contribution of Micro-organisms (Springer-Verlag, London, UK, 1994) pp 17-52.

(2.) G.R. Gibson and M.B. Roberfroid, "Dietary Modulation of the Human Colonic Microbiota: Introducing the Concept of Prebiotics," J. Nutr. 125, 1401-1412 (1995).

(3.) G. Lebek and S.P. Luginbuhl, "Effects of Lactulose and Lactitol on Human Intestinal Flora," in H.O. Conn and J. Bircher (Eds.), Hepatic Encephalopathy: Management with Lactulose and Related Carbohydrates (Medi-Ed Press, East Lansing, Michigan, USA, 1989) pp 271-282.

(4.) G.R. Gibson, J.H. Cummings and G. Macfarlane, "Growth and Activities of Sulphate-Reducing Bacteria in Gut Contents of Healthy Subjects and Patients with Ulcerative Colitis," FEMS Microbiology Ecology 86, 103-112 (1991).

(5.) R. Havenaar, "Microbial Investigations on the Cariogenicity of the Sugar Subsitute Lactitol," unpublished report from the Department of Preventive Dentistry and Oral Microbiology, University of Utrecht, the Netherlands (1976).

(6.) R. Havenaar, et al., "Some Bacteriological Aspects of Sugar Substitutes," in B. Guggenheim (Ed), Health and Sugar Substitutes. Proceedings of the ERGOB Conference. Geneva and Basel (Karger AG, Basel, Switzerland, 1978) pp 192-198.

(7.) T.H. Grenby and A. Philips, "Studies of the Dental Properties of Lactitol Compared with Five Other Bulk Sweeteners In Vitro," Caries Res. 23, 315-319 (1989).

(8.) J.S. van der Hoeven, "Cariogenicity of Lactitol in Program-Fed Rats," Caries Res. 20, 441-443 (1986).

(9.) T.H. Grenby and A. Philips, "Dental and Metabolic Observations on Lactitol in Laboratory Rats," Br. J. Nutr. 61, 17-24 (1989).

(10.) S.A.S. Craig, et al., "Polydextrose as Soluble Fiber; Physiological and Analytical Aspects," Cereal Foods World 43(5), 370-376 (1998).

(11.) J. Zhong, et al., "Studies on the Effects of Polydextrose on Physiological Function in Chinese People," Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 72, 1503-1509 (2000).

(12.) H. Mitchell, "The Role of Bulking Agent Polydextrose in Fat Replacement," in S. Roller and S. Jones (Eds.), The Handbook of Fat Replacers (CRC Press, London, UK, 1996).

(13.) F.G. McMahon, "Effects of Insulin and Glucose Kinetics in Diabetics; 50 g dose 1 level: 21 CFR 177.841, 46R 30080," FAP No. 9A 3441 (5 June 1981).

(14.) H. Hara, T. Suzuki and Y. Aoyama, "Ingestion of the Soluble Dietary Fiber, Polydextrose, Increases Calcium Absorption and Bone Mineralization in Normal and Total Gastrectomized Rats," Br. J. Nutr. 84, 655-661 (2000).

For more information

Helen Mitchell

Director of Applications, Danisco Sweeteners Ltd

41-51 Brighton Road, Redhill RH1 6YS, UK.

Tel. +44 1737 773 732
COPYRIGHT 2007 Via Media Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:gut health
Author:Mitchell, Helen
Publication:Nutraceutical Business & Technology
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Previous Article:Gut Flora modulation: splendid isolation or a healthy combination.
Next Article:The fall and rise of Coenzyme Q10.

Related Articles
Probiotics and prebiotics improve management of gut microflora.
Prebiotics overview: reviewing prebiotic ingredients in terms of their health benefits, applications and place within the nutraceuticals landscape.
Mirror Health: The good BUG guide; So-called "friendly bacteria" is not just a marketing gimmick. It can deliver a wide range of health benefits,...
New natural food ingredients company.
Handbook of prebiotics.
Towards second-generation carbohydrate functional food ingredients.
FiberAid: a new soluble fibre: FiberAid is a premium soluble fibre manufactured by the Swiss life sciences company Lonza. It offers superior benefits...
Prebiotics: past, present and future.
The prebiotic potential of almonds: nuts have long been the subject of clinical studies, and while many of their health benefits are well documented,...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters