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Prebiotics and lipid metabolism

Delzenne, Nathalie M.a; Williams, Christine M.b


Prebiotics are defined as nondigestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth or the activity of one or a limited number of bacteria (bifidobacteria, lactobacilli) in the colon. Dietary fructans are nutritionally interesting oligosaccharides that strictly conform to the definition of prebiotics and (in view of experimental studies in animals and of less numerous studies in humans) exhibit interesting serum or hepatic lipid lowering properties. Other nondigestible/fermentable nutrients, which also modulate intestinal flora activity, exhibit cholesterol or triglyceride lowering effects. Are changes in intestinal bacterial flora composition or fermentation activity responsible for those effects? What is the future of prebiotics in the nutritional control of lipidaemia and cardiovascular disease risk in humans? Those questions only receive partial response in the present review because studies of the systemic effects of prebiotics are still in their infancy, and require fundamental research devoted to elucidating the biochemical and physiological events that allow prebiotics to exert systemic effects on lipid metabolism.

aUCL-Université Catholique de Louvain, School of Pharmacy, Brussels, Belgium, and bHugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, School of Food Biosciences, The University of Reading, Reading, UK

Correspondence to Nathalie M. Delzenne, UCL-Université Catholique de Louvain, School of Pharmacy, UCL-PMNT 7369, 73 Avenue Mounier, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium Tel: +32 2 764 7369; fax: +32 2 764 7359; e-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.