Abstract: The health benefits of pre and
probiotics have been the subject of increased research
interests. The growing awareness of the relationship
between diet and health has led to an increasing demand
for food products that support health above and beyond
providing basic nutrition. Pre and probiotics have been
demonstrated to alter the pre existing intestinal flora
so as to provide an advantage to the host. This review
focuses on the scientific evidence both for and against
their role in promoting health and treating disease.
Specific attention is turned to their effects on
Immunomodulation, Lipid metabolism, Cancer prevention,
Diarrhea, Helicobacter pylori, Necrotizing enterocolitis
infection, and Inflammatory bowel disease. Prebiotics
are components present in the foods, or that can be
incorporated into the foods, which yield health benefits
related to their interactions with the gastrointestinal
The mammalian intestinal tract contains a complex
dynamic and diverse society of non-pathologic bacteria.
The number of bacteria that colonize the human body is
so large, that researchers have estimated that of which
only 10% belongs to the human body proper. Initial
colonization is achieved with maternal vaginal and fecal
bacterial flora. The first colonizers have a high
reductive potential and include species such as
enterobacter, streptococcus and staphylococcus. These
metabolize oxygen, thus encouraging the growth of
anaerobic bacteria including lactobacilli and
bifidobacteria. The micro flora environment is regulated
by the immune system with B cells secreting IgA to
control its volume and composition [IgA-Immunoglobulin].
In cesarean deliveries the normal contact of child with
maternal flora is avoided which results in delayed
colonization by typical flora such as lactobacilli and
bifidobacteria by 10 days and 1 month respectively.
Better understanding of the beneficial effects of
developing a normal bacterial flora is achieved by the
analysis of germ free animal models. An interest in
understanding the importance of non-pathologic bacteria
or “good bacteria” has resulted in increased efforts in
this area. Accordingly this has led to the concepts of
probiotics and prebiotics as mediators of human health.
Prebiotics consists mainly of oligo saccharides, sugar
molecules of 3-6 chains and soluble fiber.
This paper discusses these entities and specifically
reviews the literature that argues for and against their
role in the prevention and treatment of diarrhea,
Helicobacter pylori infection, cancer, necrotizing
enterocolitis infection, intestinal immunity,
inflammatory bowel disease, and lipid metabolism.
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