New Perspectives on Probiotics


The gut microbiota continues to fascinate scientists in many realms when it is considered that humans contain 90% bacteria. Correlations between changes in composition and activity of the gut microbiota and common disorders such as cancer, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, inflammatory bowel diseases, obesity, oral health, etc. have been proposed. To battle the increase in health care costs, a preventive approach to medicine with the development of probiotics and prebiotics or symbiotic products is being advanced.

Lactose is an important nutrient in all mammalian neonates that almost all have the ability to digest lactose to glucose and galactose for a variable time after birth. In most human populations, lactase activity decreases during mid-childhood (about five years of age), resulting in low levels from that age onwards. However, some people retain high levels of activity throughout adult life. In humans, inheritance of lactase persistent is dominant and lactase-non persistent (LNP: adults lose ability to digest lactose) is recessive. When milk is ingested and the small intestine fails to produce enough lactase, Lactose intolerance (LI) or lactose mal-absorption occurs. Colonic bacteria then metabolize unabsorbed lactose producing hydrogen, methane and short chain fatty acids. Lactose intolerance is deter-mined by blood glucose concentrations, and breath hydrogen test following ingestion of a lactose load.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea, but the cause may be multifactorial. In humans, a decline in intestinal lactase cannot be reversed by consuming lactose regular. Lactose ingestion and digestion have several effects on health. People with lactose intolerance may avoid milk consumption and other dairy products, take lactase tablets or take probiotic supplements to manage the condition. Another approach to managelactose intolerance is to increase the lactose load steadily in one’s diet. This aids the colon to adapt slowly. Since lactase from intestinal brush border is not an inducible enzyme, the reduction in symptoms may be explained by colonic adaptation.

Prebiotics are non digestible (by the host) food ingredients that have a beneficial effect through their selective metabolism in the intestinal tract. A wide range of prebiotics have been isolated from plant materials, including-glucans from oats, inulin from chicory root, many types of oligosaccharides from lactose, starch, xylose, etc. The combination of probiotics and prebiotic (called synbiotics) also increases effectiveness of probiotic preparations for therapeutic use. Prebiotics may also be effective in LI management and treatment since they support the growth of probiotics.

Joise Angelina
Journal of Probiotics and Health
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