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Evaluation of Prebiotic Potential of Refined Psyllium (Plantago ovata) Fiber in Healthy Women

Elli, Marina PhD; Cattivelli, Daniela PhD; Soldi, Sara PhD; Bonatti, Marzia; Morelli, Lorenzo

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: September 2008 - Volume 42 - Issue - p S174-S176
doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31817f183a

Goal To assess the effects of the consumption of psyllium seed husk on fecal bifidobacteria in healthy women and the ability of fecal bifidobacteria to metabolize psyllium seed husk in vitro.

Background Poor microbiologic evidences are nowadays available concerning the ability of psyllium seed husk to promote the growth of bifidobacteria in human gut.

Study Eleven healthy women consumed 7.0 g/d of psyllium seed husk for 1 month. Viability of bifidobacteria in feces was assessed at different time points.

Results In vivo results showed that the average fecal content of viable bifidobacteria was not significantly affected even if fecal counts were found to increase significantly after treatment in 6 out of 11 women having low initial concentration. In vitro trials conducted on bifidobacteria strains isolated from treated women failed to confirm the prebiotic potential of undigested psyllium seed husk, whereas treatment with simulated gastric and pancreatic juices and mimicking physical and chemical alterations during human gut transit allowed fecal Bifdobacterium isolates to metabolize psyllium seed husk as carbon source in a growth medium deprived of sugar.

Conclusions Psyllium seed husk can be metabolized by bifidobacteria only after partial hydrolysis. Bifidogenic potential can be detected in healthy women only in case of low level of fecal bifidobacteria before treatment.

AAT-Advanced Analytical Technologies S.r.l., Spin-off Company of Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Piacenza, Via Martiri della Resistenza-Galleria San Giuseppe, Piacenza, Italy

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: No conflicts to declare.

Declaration of Funding Source: No financial support to declare. The commercial product used to perform the research study has been supplied by the company Nathura Srl for free.

Reprints: Marina Elli, PhD, Via Martiri della Resistenza-Galleria San Giuseppe, 1, Piacenza 29100, Italy (e-mail:

Received for publication April 17, 2008; accepted April 23, 2008

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.