New prebiotic definition:
"a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit"
A panel of experts in microbiology, nutrition and clinical research, assembled by the ISAPP, has reviewed the definition and scope of the term prebiotic. The panel has updated the definition of a prebiotic to: “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit”.
The term prebiotic has undergone many changes over the past decades. The concept prebiotic was first defined in 1995 as “a non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria already resident in the colon” . In 2004 the definition was altered to “selectively fermented ingredients that allow specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefit upon host well-being and health” . However, as prebiotic concepts evolved, so too did their application to extra-intestinal sites. Commenced by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the definition was redefend in 2008 to “a non-viable food component that confers a health benefit on the host associated with modulation of the microbiota. . Here, selective fermentation was removed as a criterion, but in doing so the definition was criticized for not excluding antibiotics. 2 years later Gibson et al  defined the narrower category of “dietary prebiotics” as “a selectively fermented ingredient that results in specific changes in the composition and/or activity of the gastrointestinal microbiota, thus conferring benefit(s) upon host health. This proposal led to another definition of a prebiotic as “a non-digestible compound that through its metabolization by microorganisms in the gut, modulates the composition and/or activity of the gut microbiota, thus, conferring a beneficial physiological effect on the host” .
Given the many proposed definitions, the need for consensus is evident and has led the current ISAPP consensus panel to propose “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit" . This new definition expands the concept of prebiotics to possibly included non-carbohydrate substances, applications to body sites other than the gastrointestinal tract and diverse categories other than food. The requirement for selective microbiota-mediated mechanisms was retained and beneficial health effects must be documented for a substance to be considered a prebiotic.
ISAPP’s previous consensus statement on the definition and scope of the term ‘prebiotic’ remains the most highly downloaded paper published by Nature Reviews in Gastroenterology and Hepatology. It has been downloaded over 35,000 times.
Developing a consensus definition of prebiotics can be useful for many stakeholders. For example, a more precise use of the term 'prebiotic' can be useful to guide clinicians and consumers in differentiating the diverse products on the market. In their recently published consensus document ISAPP therfore urgently request all stakeholders to take their responsibility in this.
Read the concensus document
- Gibson, G. R. & Roberfroid, M. B. Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: introducing the concept of of prebiotics. J. Nutr. 125, 1401–1412 (1995).
- Gibson, G. R., Probert, H. M., Loo, J. V., Rastall, R. A. & Roberfroid, M. B. Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: updating the concept ofpprebiotics. Nutr. Res. Rev. 17, 259–275 (2004).
- Pineiro, M. et al. FAO technical meeting on prebiotics. J. Clin. Gastroenterol. 42, S156–S159 (2008).
- Gibson, G. R. et al. Dietary prebiotics: current status and new definition. Food Sci. Tech. Bull. Funct. Food 7, 1–19 (2010).
- Bindels, L. B., Delzenne, N. M., Cani, P. D. & Walter, J. Towards a more comprehensive concept for prebiotics. Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 12, 303–310 (2015).
- Gibson, G.R. Hutkins R. Sanders M.E. et al. The international Scientific Asoociation for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of pebiotics. Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 11, 506-514 (2014).
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