Star of the advertisements of some dairy products, probiotics are often used as an argument to communicate the supposed benefits of the brands.
Much less known to the general public, prebiotics are also a factor contributing to good intestinal health.
But what exactly is it about? Why and how do prebiotics play a role in your digestive system? What are the most representative molecules? What is the relationship with the skin?
The MyPureSkin team has investigated the effects of particular prebiotics: galacto-oligosaccharides.
Prebiotics and probiotics: differences and relationships
Prebiotics have a beneficial effect on the intestinal flora.
The microbiota residing in your intestines is strongly solicited by your daily environment (in which often reign an unbalanced food, a notable air pollution, a chronic smoking, a frequent alcohol consumption, an important exposure to UV rays…).
It is precisely for this reason that prebiotics are becoming increasingly important.
Prebiotic ? Probiotic ? What are the differences? What roles do these two types of agents take on and how do they function?
Probiotics: a special category of micro-organisms
In a study conducted by Quigley’s team and published in September 2013 (1), we find an argument often made by many yogurt brands: the gut microbiota plays a major role in maintaining your health.
Considered a “forgotten organ” by the authors of the research in question, the intestinal microbiota (also called “intestinal flora”) is a collection of bacteria of various types and whose number varies from one group to another.
One of the key aspects of the study’s findings can be summed up in one simple phrase: changing the state of the gut microbiota can have beneficial effects on an individual’s overall health.
This discovery (and others like it) has made nutrition a major focus for certain branches of medical research.
As a result, attention to prebiotics has been growing over the past decade.
From nutrition to immunity: the consequences of prebiotic consumption are diverse
Classified as fiber, prebiotics are molecules that are not intended to follow the fate of most other foods you ingest because they cannot be processed by your stomach.
This means that they are transmitted to your colon almost intact to be consumed by the colonies of bacteria that make up your intestinal flora.
The latter needing to feed, they tend to draw from your food bowl to sustain themselves.
But what you need to know about probiotic bacteria is that they are particularly fond of prebiotics.
Dishes that are high in fat and sugar have a negative impact on your intestinal flora, but those that include a wide variety of dietary fibers help to keep it healthy.
This is why some ingredients containing prebiotics are now considered “superfoods”. This is particularly the case for :
- Different kinds of kimchi;
- Subspecies of bananas;
- Some berries;
- Several varieties of garlic;
- Some plants including “Jerusalem artichoke” (also known as “Jerusalem artichoke”).
The spectrum of properties of the molecules constituting these ingredients is vast and the most known aspects are :
- Help regulate the balance between the populations of bacteria living in your digestive system;
- Serve in some cases as a “protective vessel” for nutrients from your diet to improve their absorption (thus limiting losses during the first stages of digestion, in the stomach for example).
These two main functions (as well as other aspects of prebiotics) are outlined by the WGO (World Gastroenterology Organisation) in some of its official documents for the general public such as the “guidelines document” published in 2017 (2).
Well nourished by the supply of prebiotics, probiotics are able to maintain themselves in sufficient numbers, preventing other populations of pathogenic bacteria (such as E. coli), from multiplying and thus colonizing the digestive system too much.
In other words: maintaining the balance of the intestinal flora with prebiotics has immune consequences in that the risks of developing health problems are more limited.
Probiotics and prebiotics: cellular and bacterial nutrients under the microscope
But to better understand how probiotics support the quality of gut flora probiotics, we need to look at how the probiotic bacteria in your gut microbiota consume them and what they do with them.
To do this, it is necessary to take a detour through the cells of your colon.
The colonocytes (i.e. the cells of the colon) are the front-line workers that enable your body to carry out certain stages of digestion. However, like all the cells in your body, they need energy to carry out their tasks and their main source of energy is a very specific type of molecule: butyrate.
Fortunately, the colonocytes work in symbiosis with the probiotic bacteria of the intestinal flora. Indeed, by feeding on prebiotics, probiotics produce butyrate allowing the colonocytes to function properly.
This harmonious life linking your cells to the probiotic bacteria therefore requires, a priori, a diet sufficiently rich in prebiotics (not just any type of dietary fiber: prebiotics specifically) to be maintained.
This insight has been confirmed through recent research, such as that described in an article co-authored by Nielson T. Baxter and published in January 2019 in ASM Journals (American Society of Microbiology).
The conclusion the Baxter team came to is that the gut microbiota varies from person to person, which means that not every prebiotic will work equally well for everyone when it comes to maintaining their gut flora.
Finally, there is a group of prebiotics that is somewhat apart, whose properties make them a very popular ingredient in nutritional solutions: galacto-oligosaccharides.
Galacto-oligosaccharides: prebiotics to pave the way for targeted and effective nutrition solutions
The properties of GOS (Galacto-OligoSaccharides) have been highlighted by numerous studies (such as those of Yang & Silva in 1995, Oku in 1996 or Hartemink & Al. in 1997) and differentiate them from other prebiotics (such as TOS and FOS). Among other things, GOS is known for presenting:
- A particular texture (notably a higher viscosity);
- A high level of hydration (which allows a great solubility);
- A lower sweetening capacity (especially compared to FOS);
- Better structural stability.
These characteristics allow galacto-oligosaccharides to limit the development of cavities when consumed but also to bind more easily to other molecules when designing food supplements.
Improve the assimilation of nutrients to benefit all your organs
As previously explained, galacto-oligosaccharides retain a very good molecular stability when bound to other molecules (such as vitamins, trace elements or collagen) and are able to pass through the first stages of digestion with very little alteration.
These two aspects make them transporters for nutrients that are sensitive to the acidity and heat of the stomach, which is why some dietary supplements such as those from MyPureSkin bind GOS to various nutrients.
Indeed, these last ones end up being better assimilated by the body which becomes able to nourish the various organs in a more effective way, in particular the skin.
This is why several studies, like the one by Yang Hee Hong’s team, published in 2017 (4), draw a single conclusion: galacto-oligosaccharides have a beneficial effect on the skin.
With better nutrition, the dermis and epidermis are able to nourish themselves better and thus maintain themselves more efficiently.
Are you looking for an effective skin nutrition solution? Now you know why choosing a formula that includes galacto-oligosaccharides is an excellent idea.
- Quigley’s research on the links between the gut microbiota and the overall health of the human body: https: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983973/
- Guidelines document published in 2017 by the WGO on probiotics and prebiotics: https: //www.worldgastroenterology.org/UserFiles/file/guidelines/probiotics-and-prebiotics-english-2017.pdf
- Baxter’s article for ASM Journals exploring the importance of matching the individual microbacterial landscape of a specific gut flora with certain types of prebiotics: https: //journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/mbio.02566-18
- Yang Hee Hong’s study on the correlation between galacto-oligosaccharide consumption and improved skin quality: https: //pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28582809/