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A prebiotic effect is defined as ‘a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefit upon host wellbeing and health’

Clear criteria have been established for classifying a food ingredient as prebiotic.
These are:

  1. Resistance to gastric acidity, to hydrolysis by mammalian enzymes and to gastrointestinal absorption.
  2. Fermentation by intestinal microflora
  3. Selective stimulation of growth and/or activity of those intestinal bacteria that contribute to health and well-being.

Yes. GOS:FOS in the ratio of 9:1 has received GRAS status from USFDA and organizations such as EFSA and WAO have also approved it as an ingredient that can be added to infant formulations. Further, there are several safety and efficacy studies that have shown it to be safe for consumption by both term and preterm infants.

GOS:FOS in 9:1 ratio has been studied for over 22 years. The science behind GOS:FOS is backed by 30 clinical trial and 55 publications in peer reviewed journals

Yes. Breast milk contains oligosaccharides that exert a prebiotic effect. It comprises of over 1000 structures of which 200 structures have been identified. It is the third largest component of breast milk after carbohydrates (lactose) and fat.

Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates with a chain length of about 3-10 units. Humans do not possess enzymes to digest oligosaccharides and hence they largely pass to the large intestine in an undigested form. Within the large intestine it is fermented by the beneficial organisms to produce small chain fatty acids (SCFA) which serve as food for the intestinal microbiota.

The scGOS/lcFOS (9:1) mixture is not digested by the enzymes present in the upper gastrointestinal tract. The components are thus available as substrates for the lower intestinal microbiota, promoting the growth of healthy bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli in the infant’s large intestine. Thus, according to the prebiotic classification set by Gibson and Roberfoid (1995), GOS:FOS in 9:1 ratio is classified as prebiotic oligosaccharide.

The ratio of 9:1 indicates the presence of 90% short chain low molecular galcto-oligosaccharides and 10% of long chain high molecular weight Fructo-oligosaccharide, a pattern also observed in the oligosaccharide structure of breast milk. In this specified ratio of 9:1, this mixture was designed to mimic the size, distribution and functionality of the complex oligosaccharide mixture of breast milk

Refrence: Gibson GR, Roberfroid MB. J Nutr1995;125:1401-1412

Clear criteria have been established for classifying a food ingredient as prebiotic.
These are:

  1. Resistance to gastric acidity, to hydrolysis by mammalian enzymes and to gastrointestinal absorption.
  2. Fermentation by intestinal microflora
  3. Selective stimulation of growth and/or activity of those intestinal bacteria that contribute to health and well-being.

Although each of these criteria is important the 3rd one is most difficult to fulfill and thus only when a carbohydrate fulfills all of the above criterions can it be called as a prebiotic.

The terms ‘prebiotics’ and ‘probiotics’ are completely different from one another but are often mistakenly used interchangeably.

Prebiotics: Nondigestible dietary ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth or activity of a limited number of bacteria in the colon.

e.g. Fructooligosaccharides, Galactooligosaccharides

Probiotics: Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host.

e.g. Lactobacilli, bifidobacterial

In simple terms, prebiotics are food for probiotics.

GOS – Galacto-oligosaccharides are obtained by enzymatic digestion of lactose, FOS – Fructo-oligosaccharides are fractions isolated from Chicory