Results of the EU and MICROFUNCTION Project

New scientific research by the EU and Microfunction Project has demonstrated that the composition and activity of gut microflora, which plays an important role in preserving host health, can be improved with the addition of pre- and probiotics. The project findings also showed that an improvement in biomarkers of anti-oxidative activity can be achieved with synbiotic supplementation. These findings are a welcome breakthrough, as oxidative stress has consistently been implicated as a cause of conditions such as chronic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, obesity and many others.

The project was established through a network of extensive collaborations between eight partners from seven different countries – six European (including BENEO-Orafti) and one Australian – under the support of the European Commission (EU Project number QLK1-2001-00135).

The Approach
The project’s combined approach included research into gut-level interplay between microflora and the host (host-gene interactions), a safety assessment of new isolated microbial strains, translocation studies, and prebiotic efficacy studies, which led to the development of carefully matched synbiotic combinations with the highest efficacy. Ultimately, a study in humans was conducted to investigate the effects of a synbiotic on health and well-being using specific biomarkers, and the results were presented at a Nutrition Society meeting on July 16-19, 2007 at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. (Saulnier et al. 2007). (See Appendix 1 for a detailed outline of the study)

A synbiotic is a combination of a live microbial food supplement, or probiotic, with a prebiotic, a non-digestible food ingredient that selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thereby improving host health. The addition of prebiotics was estimated to aid in the action of certain probiotics to scavenge reactive oxygen species, and the addition of synbiotics with anti-oxidative activity can help to maintain a physiologically acceptable redox status in the human body.

Foods play a major role in the promotion and maintenance of health, making it a major challenge to guarantee nutritious and safe diets to not only EU citizens, but populations worldwide as well. The results from the EU and MICROFUNCTION Project make a clear link between diet and health, and contribute to the growing body of scientific knowledge of the role that pre- and probiotics play in a healthy diet.

Dr. Anne Franck, Vice President of Research & Development at the BENEO-Group, comments: “The improvement in biomarkers of anti-oxidative activity seen with the synbiotic supplementation in this study is promising and warrants further research, especially since high oxidative stress is known to cause harm to our bodies.”

The EU and MICROFUNCTION Project was highly successful, given the results obtained and the high-fidelity technologies developed and utilized during the project duration. The results give new insights into the development of dietary recommendations needed to maintain and improve gut health, and advice on dietary-based policies necessary to combat the economic burden of gut-associated and other Western diseases. They also provide direction for the academic world to better understand and further explore more the mechanisms of pre- and probiotic interactions at the gut and systemic levels.


Saulnier D.M.A., Hütt P., Mikelsaar M., Bosscher D., Gibson G., Kolida S. (2007) Effects of a synbiotic on biomarkers of oxidative stress and fecal microbiota in healthy adults: results of a cross-over double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (66): 101A.

The EU and MICROFUNCTION Project has been carried out with financial support from the Commission of the European Communities specific RTD program “Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources”, Key Action 1 “Food, Nutrition and Health”. It does not necessarily reflect their views and in no way anticipates the Commissions’ future policy in this area.

Appendix 1
A synbiotic formulation containing Orafti®P95 (6.6 g/day of oligofructose) and probiotics (Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3, Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2 and Bifidobacterium longum 46) was given in a randomized, double-blind (cross-over), placebo-controlled trial to 53 healthy Estonian adults for a period of three weeks. Biomarkers of oxidative stress such as total anti-oxidative activity (TAA; linolenic acid test) and oxidation of LDL (BCD-LDL; baseline diene conjugates of LDL) were monitored in blood. Predominant groups of the fecal microbiota were enumerated using molecular techniques (fluorescent in situ hybridisation) and short-chain fatty acids were analyzed as a measure of microbial activity.
After synbiotic ingestion, biomarkers of anti-oxidative stress improved compared with the placebo (maltodextrin); TAA was higher with the synbiotic compared with the placebo, with means of 42•4% and 41•9%, respectively (P=0•04). Moreover, oxidation of LDL decreased with the synbiotic (12•6 μM compared with 14•6 μM for the placebo; P=0•01). In fecal samples, results showed significantly higher numbers of bifidobacteria with the synbiotic (9•7 log(10) cells/g vs. 9•5 log(10) cells/g for the placebo; P=0•002) and, to a lower extent, of the Atopobium group (9•7 log(10) cells/g with the synbiotic vs. 9•6 log(10) cells/g for the placebo; P<0•001). Increases in these groups were more pronounced when baseline levels were low before synbiotic ingestion. Significantly higher fecal butyrate concentrations were observed with the synbiotic (10•0 mM vs. 8•1 mM for the placebo; P=0•009).

The project data shows that the addition of a synbiotic to the diet of healthy individuals improved their gastro-intestinal health by increasing both bifidobacteria and butyrate levels, and importantly, that the synbiotic combination improved the anti-oxidative status of the human body.

BENEO-Orafti is the world leader in the production of chicory ingredients. Its products include active food ingredients such as inulin and oligofructose for the food and animal nutrition industries and bio-based chemicals for cosmetic and chemical applications. With a head office in Tienen, Belgium, the company operates in more than 75 countries and has production units in Oreye (Belgium), and Pemuco (Chile).

For more business information contact:
Mr. Joseph O’Neill
2740 Route 10 West
Suite 205
Morris Plains, NJ 07950

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