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J Nutr. 2007 Nov;137(11 Suppl):2590S-2593S. doi: 10.1093/jn/137.11.2590S.

Inulin-type fructans in healthy aging.

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Department of Food Biosciences, School of Chemistry, Food Bioscience and Pharmacy, University of Reading, Reading, UK.


Worldwide, the population is aging, with estimates of 1 billion people aged 60 y or over within the next 20 y. With aging comes a reduction in overall health and increased morbidity and mortality due to infectious disease. Mortality due to gastrointestinal infections is up to 400 times higher in the elderly compared with younger adults. Recent studies have shown that the gut microbiota changes in old age, with an increased number of bacterial groups represented in the predominant elderly gut microbiota. This change in species "evenness" coincides with parallel changes in immune function, diet, and lifestyle and may contribute to disease susceptibility and severity in old age. The intestinal microbiota may thus be identified as an important target for improving health through reduced disease risk. Here, the application of prebiotics, especially the inulin-type fructans, and synbiotics (prebiotics combined with efficacious probiotic strains) will be discussed in terms of microbiota modulation and impact on disease risk in the aged population. Recent human intervention studies have confirmed the microbiota modulatory capability of the inulin-type fructans in the elderly and there is some evidence for reduced risk of disease. However, there is a need for more and larger human intervention studies to determine the efficacy of prebiotics in the elderly, particularly studies that take advantage of recent high resolution analytical methodologies like metabonomics, to shed light on possible prebiotic mechanisms of action.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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