Probiotics and prebiotics
- Functional foods are eaten by people in order to make themselves healthier.
- These contain live bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria which are ‘friendly’. They are similar to those found naturally in the gut and produce lactic acid.
- They are added to foods such as yoghurt, soya milk and dietary supplements.
- They are claimed to improve your digestive system and makes your immune system strong.
- However not clear evidence they are helpful: out of 180 health claims made 10 were rejected completely and there was not enough evidence to support the other 170 claims.
- “Food” for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. We cannot digest them ourselves.
- Oligosaccharides, a common prebiotic, are found in tomatoes, leek, onions and asparagus. However, they do not contain enough of them to have a significant effect so supplements containing prebiotics are taken.
- These prebiotics help with the growth of good bacteria which in consequence can help improve the health of the digestive system and immune system.
- The evidence is growing that prebiotics increase beneficial bacteria in the gut so maintain good health.
Plant stanol esters
- Chemicals that stop the small intestine absorbing cholesterol thus lowering the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
- Stanols occur naturally in plants but in small amounts.
- Stanols are produced commercially by using bacteria to convert sterols into stanols.
- They are added to spread and dairy products. People may consume these if they are worried about getting heart disease (high cholesterol has been linked with a risk of heart disease)
- Clear evidence that they have an effect.