There is growing interest in the use of inulins as substrates for the selective growth of beneficial gut bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli because recent studies have established that their prebiotic effect is linked to several health benefits. In the present study, the impact of a very-long-chain inulin (VLCI), derived from globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus), on the human intestinal microbiota compared with maltodextrin was determined. A double-blind, cross-over study was carried out in thirty-two healthy adults who were randomised into two groups and consumed 10 g/d of either VLCI or maltodextrin, for two 3-week study periods, separated by a 3-week washout period. Numbers of faecal bifidobacteria and lactobacilli were significantly higher upon VLCI ingestion compared with the placebo. Additionally, levels of Atopobium group significantly increased, while Bacteroides–Prevotella numbers were significantly reduced. No significant changes in faecal SCFA concentrations were observed. There were no adverse gastrointestinal symptoms apart from a significant increase in mild and moderate bloating upon VLCI ingestion. These observations were also confirmed by in vitro gas production measurements. In conclusion, daily consumption of VLCI extracted from globe artichoke exerted a pronounced prebiotic effect on the human faecal microbiota composition and was well tolerated by all volunteers.
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