Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Access
  • Cited by 105
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Chand, Naila Faheem, Hassan Khan, Rifat Ullah Qureshi, Muhammad Subhan Alhidary, Ibrahim A. and Abudabos, Alaeldein M. 2016. Anticoccidial effect of mananoligosacharide against experimentally induced coccidiosis in broiler. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Vol. 23, Issue. 14, p. 14414.

    Derome, Nicolas Gauthier, Jeff Boutin, Sébastien and Llewellyn, Martin 2016. The Rasputin Effect: When Commensals and Symbionts Become Parasitic.

    Florowska, A. Krygier, K. Florowski, T. and Dłużewska, E. 2016. Prebiotics as functional food ingredients preventing diet-related diseases. Food Funct., Vol. 7, Issue. 5, p. 2147.

    Illanes, A. and Guerrero, C. 2016. Lactose-Derived Prebiotics.

    Norris, Gregory H. Jiang, Christina Ryan, Julia Porter, Caitlin M. and Blesso, Christopher N. 2016. Milk sphingomyelin improves lipid metabolism and alters gut microbiota in high fat diet-fed mice. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Vol. 30, p. 93.

    Peng, Mengfei and Biswas, Debabrata 2016. Short Chain and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Host Gut Health and Foodborne Bacterial Pathogen Inhibition. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, p. 00.

    Ringø, E. and Song, S.K. 2016. Application of dietary supplements (synbiotics and probiotics in combination with plant products and β-glucans) in aquaculture. Aquaculture Nutrition, Vol. 22, Issue. 1, p. 4.

    Verspreet, Joran Damen, Bram Broekaert, Willem F. Verbeke, Kristin Delcour, Jan A. and Courtin, Christophe M. 2016. A Critical Look at Prebiotics Within the Dietary Fiber Concept. Annual Review of Food Science and Technology, Vol. 7, Issue. 1, p. 167.

    Alam, Nur Haque Ashraf, Hasan Kamruzzaman, Mohammad Ahmed, Tahmeed Islam, Sufia Olesen, Maryam Kadjar Gyr, Niklaus and Meier, Remy 2015. Efficacy of partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG) supplemented modified oral rehydration solution in the treatment of severely malnourished children with watery diarrhoea: a randomised double-blind controlled trial. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, Vol. 34, Issue. 1,

    Asarat, M. Apostolopoulos, V. Vasiljevic, T. and Donkor, O. 2015. Short-chain fatty acids produced by synbiotic mixtures in skim milk differentially regulate proliferation and cytokine production in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Vol. 66, Issue. 7, p. 755.

    Bryk, Gabriel Coronel, Magalí Zeni Pellegrini, Gretel Mandalunis, Patricia Rio, María Ester de Portela, María Luz Pita Martín and Zeni, Susana Noemí 2015. Effect of a combination GOS/FOS® prebiotic mixture and interaction with calcium intake on mineral absorption and bone parameters in growing rats. European Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 54, Issue. 6, p. 913.

    Cresci, Gail 2015. Nutrition Support for the Critically Ill Patient.

    Ghosh, Arabinda Verma, Anil Kumar Tingirikari, Jaganmohan Rao Shukla, Rishikesh and Goyal, Arun 2015. Recovery and Purification of Oligosaccharides from Copra Meal by Recombinant Endo-β-mannanase and Deciphering Molecular Mechanism Involved and Its Role as Potent Therapeutic Agent. Molecular Biotechnology, Vol. 57, Issue. 2, p. 111.

    Hoseinifar, S.H. Mirvaghefi, A. Amoozegar, M.A. Merrifield, D.L. and Ringø, E. 2015. In vitroselection of a synbiotic andin vivoevaluation on intestinal microbiota, performance and physiological response of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fingerlings. Aquaculture Nutrition, p. n/a.

    Kothari, Damini Tingirikari, Jagan Mohan Rao and Goyal, Arun 2015. In vitro analysis of dextran from Leuconostoc mesenteroides NRRL B-1426 for functional food application. Bioactive Carbohydrates and Dietary Fibre, Vol. 6, Issue. 2, p. 55.

    QAISRANI, S.N. VAN KRIMPEN, M.M. KWAKKEL, R.P. VERSTEGEN, M.W.A. and HENDRIKS, W.H. 2015. Dietary factors affecting hindgut protein fermentation in broilers: a review. World's Poultry Science Journal, Vol. 71, Issue. 01, p. 139.

    Razieh, Mokhtari Ahmadreza, Yazdani and Hamed, Kashfi 2015. The effects of different growth promoters on performance and carcass characteristics of broiler chickens. Journal of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, Vol. 7, Issue. 8, p. 271.

    Ricke, S. C. 2015. Potential of fructooligosaccharide prebiotics in alternative and nonconventional poultry production systems. Poultry Science, Vol. 94, Issue. 6, p. 1411.

    Wasilewski, Andrzej Zielińska, Marta Storr, Martin and Fichna, Jakub 2015. Beneficial Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, Synbiotics, and Psychobiotics in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Vol. 21, Issue. 7, p. 1674.

    Wutzke, Klaus D. Tisztl, Michael Salewski, Birgit and Glass, Änne 2015. Dietary fibre-rich resistant starches promote ammonia detoxification in the human colon as measured by lactose-[15N2]ureide. Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies, Vol. 51, Issue. 4, p. 488.


Gastrointestinal effects of prebiotics

  • J. H. Cummings (a1) and G. T. Macfarlane (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2007

The defining effect of prebiotics is to stimulate selectively the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the gut and, thereby, increase the body's natural resistance to invading pathogens. Prebiotic carbohydrates may also have additional, less specific, benefits because they are fermented in the large intestine. The prebiotic carbohydrates that have been evaluated in humans at the present time largely consist of fructans or galactans. There is consistent evidence from in vitro and in vivo studies that these are not digested by normal human enzymes, but are readily fermented by anaerobic bacteria in the large intestine. There are no reports of faecal recovery of measurable quantities of prebiotic carbohydrates. Through fermentation in the large intestine, prebiotic carbohydrates yield short-chain fatty acids, stimulate the growth of many bacterial species in addition to the selective effects on lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, they can also produce gas. Along with other fermented carbohydrates, prebiotics have mild laxative effects, although this has proved difficult to demonstrate in human studies because the magnitude of laxation is small. Potentially, the most important effect of prebiotic carbohydrates is to strengthen the body's resistance to invading pathogens and, thereby, prevent episodes of diarrhoea. At the present time, this effect has not been convincingly demonstrated in either adults or children, although there have been attempts to ameliorate the diarrhoea associated with antibiotics and travel, but without success. However, prebiotic carbohydrates clearly have significant and distinctive physiological effects in the human large intestine, and on the basis of this it is likely that they will ultimately be shown to be beneficial to health.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Gastrointestinal effects of prebiotics
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Gastrointestinal effects of prebiotics
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Gastrointestinal effects of prebiotics
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Professor J. H. Cummings, fax +44 (0) 1382 633952, email
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

SU Christl , PR Murgatroyd , GR Gibson & JH Cummings (1992) Production, metabolism and excretion of hydrogen in the large intestine. Gastroenterology 102, 12691277.

JH Cummings , S Christie & TJ Cole (2001 a) A study of fructo oligosaccharides (FOS) in the prevention of travellers’ diarrhoea. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 15, 11391145.

L Ellegard , H Andersson & I Bosaeus (1997) Inulin and oligofructose do not influence the absorption of cholesterol, or the excretion of cholesterol, Ca, Mg, Zn, Fe, or bile acids but increases energy excretion in ileostomy subjects. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 51, 15.

GR Gibson , ER Beatty , X Wang & JH Cummings (1995) Selective stimulation of bifidobacteria in the human colon by oligofructose and inulin. Gastroenterology 108, 975982.

GR Gibson & X Wang (1994) Regulatory effects of bifidobacteria on the growth of other colonic bacteria. Journal of Applied Bacteriology 77, 412420.

MR Gismondo , L Drago & A Lombardi (1999) Review of probiotics available to modify gastrointestinal flora. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 12, 287292.

H Hidaka , T Eida , T Takizawa , T Tokunaga & Y Tashiro (1986) Effects of fructooligosaccharides on intestinal flora and human health. Bifidobacteria Microflora 5, 3750.

H Hidaka & M Hirayama (1991) Useful characteristics and commercial applications of fructooligosaccharides. Biochemical Society Transactions 19, 561565.

M Ito , Y Deguchi & A Miyamori , (1990) Effects of administration of galactooligosaccharides on the human faecal microflora, stool weight and abdominal sensation. Microbial Ecology Health Disease 3, 285292.

SJ Langlands , MJ Hopkins & JH Cummings (2000) Inulin and FOS feeding modify colonic mucosal bacteria in vivo. Gastroenterology 118, A772, Suppl 2 part of 1.

S Lewis & AR Freedman (1998) Review article: the use of biotherapeutic agents in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disease. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 12, 807822.

S Macfarlane , JH Cummings & GT Macfarlane (1999) Bacterial colonisation of surfaces in the large intestine. In Colonic Microbiota, Nutrition and Health, pp. 7187. [GR Gibson and MB Roberfroid , editors]. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

T Mitsuoka , H Hidaka & T Eida (1987) Effect of fructooligosaccharides on intestinal microflora. Nahrung 31, 56.

X Wang & GR Gibson (1993) Effects of the in vitro fermentation of oligofructose and inulin by bacteria growing in the human large intestine. Journal of Applied Bacteriology 75, 373380.

BW Wolf , JA Meulbroek , KP Jarvis , KP Wheeler & KA Garleb (1997) Dietary supplementation with fructooligosaccharides increase survival time in a hamster model of Clostridium difficile – colitis. Bioscience Microflora 16, 5964.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *