From digestive health to weight management

by Keith Nunes
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The role prebiotics play in maintaining digestive health are becoming better known, and new research is showing prebiotics may play a role in reducing energy intake, effecting consumer weight management efforts.

In its latest “2011 functional foods/foods for health consumer trending survey” the International Food Information Council noted that the percentage of consumers who related probiotics and prebiotics with digestive health had risen “significantly” since 2009. In the 2011 survey of 1,000 adults, IFIC found that 81% were aware of the role probiotics play in digestive health and 72% were aware that prebiotics were related to digestive health. In 2009, 72% of consumers were aware of the probiotic digestive health relationship and 60% were aware of the prebiotic benefits.

The 2011 survey also showed that of those consumers who were aware of the role prebiotics play in digestive health, 37% said they were consuming foods that featured prebiotics, 54% said they were very or somewhat likely, and 5% said they were not at all or not very likely to consume foods with prebiotics.

Since the functional food survey was first initiated in 1998, there has been an increase in consumer awareness of foods and beverages that may provide benefits beyond basic nutrition, and consumers continue to be interested in learning more about them, according to IFIC.

In the world of functional foods, consumers are most aware of food and health benefit associations related to the top two health concerns of cardiovascular disease and weight maintenance. The focus on weight maintenance may further enhance consumer knowledge of prebiotics.

In late May, Professor Rob Welch of the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, presented research results at the European Congress on Obesity in Istanbul, Turkey, that showed an oligofructose-enriched inulin may lead to lower energy intake in overweight and obese adults. The research involved a double-blind placebo controlled cross-over intervention study that included 36 adults, overweight or obese volunteers. Each participant received 6 grams of OraftiSynergy 1, an ingredient manufactured by Beneo, Inc., which has a U.S. office in Morris Plains, N.J., twice daily at breakfast and lunch as a supplement dissolved in a beverage or a placebo over the course of three weeks. The goal of the study was to assess the effects of the oligofructose-enriched inulin on energy intake and appetite sensations in the participants.

The study results showed that the prebiotic intake led to lower energy intake in all of the subjects, and, when separated by gender, the result was more apparent in women.

In June, the British Journal of Nutrition published a similar study on-line that reached similar results to those found in the study conducted by Dr. Welch. Carried out by researchers at the University of Maastricht, The Netherlands, and funded by the ingredient supplier Sensus, which, through its Sensus America, Inc. business unit in Lawrenceville, N.J., showed that oligofructose has an influence on a person’s food and energy intake.

The study included 31 healthy volunteers with a body mass index of approximately 25. Over a period of 13 days, the volunteers received either a placebo or a dose of oligofructose (either 5 grams or 8 grams twice daily). Their food intake was measured at the beginning and end of the trial period. After 13 days, the energy consumption of those taking the higher dose of oligofructose had decreased by 10%. Higher concentrations of the satiety hormones PYY and GLP-I also were measured in the subject’s blood, while feelings of hunger and satiety remained the same.

Cargill, Minneapolis, promotes the point diets rich in fiber may help maintain a feeling of fullness for longer periods after eating. The company said its Oliggo-Fiber inulin products also improve the nutritional value of food products by increasing the dietary fiber content and potentially reducing the caloric content of food and beverages.

Corn Products International, Inc., Westchester, Ill., also markets fructooligosaccharides, which are a natural prebiotic fiber. Applications for the ingredient range from baked goods, beverages, dairy products and processed foods. The company manufactures the ingredient from its facility in London, Ont.

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