Research capsule

Study claim: A major European study, funded by the European Union, shows for the first time that colon-cancer risk can be reduced by a dietary supplement containing the prebiotic ingredient, Beneo Synergy1.

Published: Rafter J, et al. Dietary synbiotics reduce cancer risk factors in polypectomized and colon cancer patients. Am J Clin Nutr 2007 Feb;85(2):488-96.

Abstract: Animal studies suggest that prebiotics and probiotics exert protective effects against tumour development in the colon, but human data supporting this suggestion are weak. The study objective was to verify whether the prebiotic concept (selective interaction with colonic flora of nondigested carbohydrates) as induced by a synbiotic preparation — oligofructose-enriched inulin (SYN1) + Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) andBifidobacterium lactis Bb12 (BB12) — is able to reduce the risk of colon cancer in humans.

The 12-week, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a synbiotic food composed of the prebiotic SYN1 and probiotics LGG and BB12 was conducted in 37 colon-cancer patients and 43 polypectomised patients. Faecal and blood samples were obtained before, during and after the intervention, and colorectal biopsy samples were obtained before and after the intervention. The effect of synbiotic consumption on a battery of intermediate biomarkers for colon cancer was examined.

The synbiotic intervention resulted in significant changes in faecal flora: bifidobacterium and lactobacillus increased and Clostridium perfringens decreased. The intervention significantly reduced colorectal proliferation and the capacity of faecal water to induce necrosis in colonic cells and improve epithelial barrier function in polypectomised patients. Genotoxicity assays of colonic biopsy samples indicated a decreased exposure to genotoxins in polypectomised patients at the end of the intervention period. Synbiotic consumption prevented an increased secretion of interleukin-2 by peripheral blood mononuclear cells in the polypectomized patients and increased the production of interferon gamma in the cancer patients.

Potential applications: Several colorectal-cancer biomarkers can be altered favourably by synbiotic intervention. Synbiotics are compatible with foods and supplements. ORAFTI Group produces Beneo inulin and oligofructose from chicory roots for human and animal nutrition.

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Study results: After four weeks of consuming 2.5g of Cargill's Oliggo-Fiber brand inulin twice daily, there was a 10-fold increase in counts of beneficial bifidobacteria among healthy volunteers as well as markers of improved colon health related to cancer.

Published: Bouhnik Y, et al. Prolonged administration of low-dose inulin stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria in humans. Nutr Res 2007 Apr;27(4):187-93.

Abstract: The effect of low-dose inulin consumption on faecal bifidobacteria growth, microbial activity and tolerance in healthy adults was investigated in a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study. Thirty-nine healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to two groups and ingested 2.5g inulin or placebo twice a day for four weeks (from week two to week six). Fresh stools were collected after two, four, six and eight weeks for faecal bacteria counts and faecal bacterial enzymatic activity measurements. Tolerance was evaluated from a daily chart.

In the inulin group, faecal bifidobacteria counts increased, whereas no change was observed in the placebo group. Lactobacillus counts did not change in the inulin group and decreased in the placebo group. In the inulin group, a decrease in beta-glucuronidase activity was found, which was negatively correlated with the level of bifidobacterium.

Throughout the study, there was no change in faecal enterobacteria, pH, beta-galactosidase activity, reductase activity or short-chain fatty acid levels in either of the groups. Excess flatus significantly increased in both groups, but its intensity was very mild. Even at doses as low as 2.5g twice a day, inulin can exert a prebiotic effect in healthy volunteers by stimulating bifidobacteria growth.

Potential applications: Considerable research has already focused on the role of inulin and oligofructose in bone health and colorectal cancer, and the science is now expanding to cover potential benefits for the immune system, weight management and intestinal health.

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