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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Mar 15;27(6):504-13. Epub 2007 Dec 10.

Baseline microbiota activity and initial bifidobacteria counts influence responses to prebiotic dosing in healthy subjects.

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Department of Gastrointestinal Research, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, K.U. Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.



Dietary intervention with prebiotics can cause changes in the colonic microbiota and their metabolic activities.


To investigate whether the response to prebiotic dosing is influenced by the baseline metabolic activity of the colonic flora and bifidobacteria counts.


The 4-week effect of lactulose (10 g bid.; n = 29) and oligofructose-enriched inulin (10 g bid.; n = 19) was evaluated in healthy human volunteers. Lactose-[(15)N, (15)N]-ureide was used to study the colonic NH(3)-metabolism. Urine (48 h) and faeces (72 h) were collected and analysed for p-cresol and (15)N-content by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and isotope ratio mass spectrometer, respectively. Faecal bifidobacteria were quantified by real-time polymerase chain reaction.


After the 4-week prebiotic administration period, the urinary excretion of p-cresol and (15)N was significantly decreased in both groups (P < 0.05) corresponding to a significantly higher faecal excretion of (15)N (P < 0.05). The decrease in urinary (15)N and p-cresol excretion significantly correlated with baseline (15)N and p-cresol levels (P < 0.05), indicating that subjects with higher baseline levels showed a higher response to prebiotic dosing. Furthermore, a significant correlation was seen between baseline bifidobacteria counts and the effect of prebiotic intake (P < 0.05).


The response to prebiotic dosing, as indicated by the fate of NH(3), p-cresol and bifidobacteria, is determined by the initial colonic conditions.

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