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Part 2-Prebiotics: New Medicines for the Colon, Health Benefits

Dubert-Ferrandon, Alix PhD; Newburg, David S. PhD; Walker, W. Allan MD

doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e31819df7bc
Clinical Nutrition

Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon and thus improve host health. Various beneficial effects on the gut composition were indeed observed after prebiotic supplementation and also on the prevention of the development of diseases. Inflammatory bowel disease symptoms were alleviated when the patient was supplemented with prebiotics. Prebiotics were also used in gastroenteritis diseases; they had the potential to inhibit pathogen colonization. Patients with colorectal cancer can be supplemented with prebiotics that influence positively the development, progression, and treatment of the cancer. Allergy symptoms have also been shown to be reduced when the patients are fed prebiotics. However, more human studies are required to understand better the mechanisms underlying the protection of prebiotics in disease development, prevention, and symptom alleviation

Do prebiotics have new applications for gut health?

Alix Dubert-Ferrandon, PhD, received her PhD in food biosciences at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom in 2005. She is a research fellow in the Walker Laboratory and is working on the immunomodulatory properties of galacto-oligosaccharides.

David S. Newburg, PhD, is a faculty member of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and is director of the Program in Glycobiology. He has published extensively in the field of protective factors in human milk and also studies the development and glycosylation of the intestinal mucosa and the colonization of the intestine by symbiotic bacteria. Dr Newburg is the recipient of numerous research grants from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the structure and function of human milk components in health and disease.

W. Allan Walker, MD, is the Conrad Taff Professor of Nutrition and professor of nutrition and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS). He is the director of the Division of Nutrition for HMS and its teaching hospitals and is the principal investigator at the mucosal immunology at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. His research interests include the mechanisms of "cross-talk" between colonizing bacteria and the developing human intestine.

Corresponding author: W. Allan Walker, MD, Mucosal Immunology Laboratory, Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and Harvard Medical School, 114 16th St (114-3350), Charlestown, MA 02129-4404 (

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.