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J Nutr. 2011 Dec;141(12):2139-45. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.143727. Epub 2011 Oct 19.

Polydextrose enrichment of infant formula demonstrates prebiotic characteristics by altering intestinal microbiota, organic acid concentrations, and cytokine expression in suckling piglets.

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Laboratory of Developmental Nutrition, Department of Animal Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA.


Oligosaccharides, the 3rd-most abundant component in human milk, are virtually absent from infant formulas and from the cow milk on which most are based. In breast-fed infants, human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) act as both receptor analogs, interfering with pathogen adhesion, and as prebiotics, stimulating the growth of certain commensal bacteria (e.g. bifidobacteria) and supporting the innate immunity. To further align the functional properties of infant formula with those of human milk, polydextrose (PDX) is proposed as a substitute for HMO. To determine the prebiotic functionality of PDX, 1-d-old pigs were fed a cow milk-based formula supplemented with increasing concentrations of PDX (0, 1.7, 4.3, 8.5, or 17 g/L) for 18 d (n = 13). Additional reference groups included pigs sampled at d 0 and sow-reared pigs sampled at d 18 (n = 12). Ileal Lactobacilli CFU, but not Bifidobacteria, increased linearly with increasing PDX (P = 0.02). The propionic acid concentration in digesta linearly increased with the PDX level (P = 0.045) and lactic acid increased linearly by 5-fold with increasing PDX (P = 0.001). Accordingly, digesta pH decreased linearly (P < 0.05) as PDX increased, with a maximal reduction approaching 0.5 pH units in pigs fed 17 g/L. Expression of TNFα, IL-1β, and IL-8 showed a negative quadratic pattern in response to PDX supplementation, declining at intermediate concentrations and rebounding at higher concentrations of PDX. In summary, PDX enrichment of infant formula resulted in a prebiotic effect by increasing ileal lactobacilli and propionic and lactic acid concentrations and decreasing pH with associated alterations in ileal cytokine expression.

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