28th October|Blogs

Back to Basics with the OptiBiotix Guide to Prebiotics

Back to Basics with the OptiBiotix Guide to Prebiotics

When it comes to prebiotics, how much do we really know? Over the last few years, research into prebiotics – and probiotics – has grown exponentially, primarily driven by consumer interest. According to search term data from Google, worldwide consumer interest in prebiotics has been on a steady increase since 2015, spiking in popularity in the first quarter of 2017, 2018 and 2020. Regionally, prebiotics have seen the most interest in Singapore, the US, and Australasian markets based on the same data trend period. Of course, this fascination with pre- and probiotics is partly led by dietary trends. And now, in 2020, we’re in the age of the ‘health conscious consumer’, where switching to a healthier lifestyle by incorporating more plant-based ingredients can be both great for our gut health and our planet. In fact, data from a 2020 global survey by HealthFocus International reported that 81% of consumers are interested in overall wellness. Yet before we touch on the latest research in prebiotics, let’s first talk about the meaning behind the term.

The meaning of prebiotics

Derived from the latin preposition ‘pre’ meaning before and the Greek word ‘biotic’ meaning life, the term prebiotic directly translates to ‘before life’. Since most prebiotics are non-digestible fibres (carbohydrates), they exist purely as a food source for probiotics, which are live microorganisms, to make them more effective in the human body. By consuming prebiotics to feed probiotics, this ensures the growth of good bacteria, thus promoting a healthy, diverse and balanced microbiome. Without this sustenance, the good bacteria would be unable to thrive and could subsequently lower our immune health resistance. For example, in a 2011 study conducted on 419 healthy students, prebiotic supplements were shown to reduce gastrointestinal problems and could have a beneficial effect on the body during stressful times.

Due to their beneficiary nature, versatile use, and the many types available, the definition of ‘prebiotic’ is still very much in flux. According to the Global Prebiotic Association, prebiotic is defined as ‘a nutritional product and / or ingredient selectively utilised in the microbiome producing health benefits’. And while prebiotic research has been primarily targeted towards gut health, their use (alongside probiotics) goes well beyond the gut. Emerging studies have recently shown that prebiotics could be used to target specific conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alongside reducing reoccurring viral infections. Elsewhere, a South Korean clinical studydiscovered that a prebiotic compound of aloe vera gel in combination with inulin and lactitol significantly decreased a number of common pathogenic gut bacteria that has been linked to obesity and diabetes.

The rise of prebiotics in food supplements

There are many natural prebiotics we can consume as part of our diet. Fruits such as bananas, tomatoes and berries are a great source of dietary fibre, while vegetables like leeks, garlic, raw onion and chicory root, alongside nuts and pulses also offer great benefits for our gut. Chicory root, in particular, is a polysaccharide similar to starch and contains up to 20% of inulin (a type of storage carbohydrate). The root is typically the sweetest part of chicory, containing around 10% of the sweetness found in sucrose. Due to its sweetening and prebiotic properties, it’s often used as a sweetener in food supplements and added to yoghurts.

At OptiBiotix, we are passionate about discovering ways to use these versatile raw materials in our own ingredients. For example, chicory root is used in our patented award-winning weight management blend, SlimBiome®, to both stimulate the growth of health positive bacteria to enhance or maintain microbiome diversity and deliver efficient digestion. Together with glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fibre that promotes satiety, and the trace mineral chromium to regulate insulin response, SlimBiome helps consumers manage their weight without relying on willpower alone.

Transforming weight loss with dietary fibres

Backed by strong science, SlimBiome has demonstrated its efficacy in several clinical studies. The latest study, conducted by the University of Roehamption, was designed to observe the effect of SlimBiome in 12 obese and overweight women. Over a 4-week period, the volunteers followed a 1,500-calorie restricted diet plan that incorporated two GoFigure® meal replacement shakes and two GoFigure flapjacks, alongside a healthy dinner of their choice. The results concluded that SlimBiome significantly reduced body weight (average 1.9kg), BMI, body fat percentage, waist and hip circumference and systolic blood pressure. What’s more, it also showed a reduction in sweet cravings and a significant reduction in savoury cravings, alongside a substantial improvement on mood and gut microbiome composition.

The science behind the blend is what makes SlimBiome so unique. From the results of the latest study, we can ascertain that our award-winning ingredient can be taken with any calorie-controlled diet plan to help control hunger cravings. It shows that prebiotics go beyond our gut and can influence the way we respond to sweet and savoury foods. And for health food supplement businesses, SlimBiome represents a superb opportunity to incorporate the blend into your weight management range. So, whether it’s used in porridge, meal replacement shakes or healthy snacks, SlimBiome really does help consumers help themselves!

It’s safe to say research into prebiotics and their use in food supplements will continue to evolve over time. With consumer interest remaining high and with many opting for plant-based diets, prebiotics will play a large part in our future and, hopefully, our overall health.