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Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Apr;18(2):287-98.

Microbial-gut interactions in health and disease. Prebiotics.

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Food Microbial Science Unit, School of Food Biosciences, Reading University, Science and Technology Center, Earley Gate, Whiteknights Road, Reading RG6 6BZ, UK.


In nutritional sciences there is much interest in dietary modulation of the human gut. The gastrointestinal tract, particularly the colon, is very heavily populated with bacteria. Most bacteria are benign; however, certain gut species are pathogenic and may be involved in the onset of acute and chronic disorders. Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are thought to be beneficial and are common targets for dietary intervention. Prebiotic is a non-viable food ingredient selectively metabolized by beneficial intestinal bacteria. Dietary modulation of the gut microflora by prebiotics is designed to improve health by stimulating numbers and/or activities of the bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Having an 'optimal' gut microflora can increase resistance to pathogenic bacteria, lower blood ammonia, increase stimulation of the immune response and reduce the risk of cancer. This chapter examines how prebiotics are being applied to the improvement of human health and reviews the scientific evidence behind their use.

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