Non-digestible inulin-type fructans, such as oligofructose and high-molecular-weight inulin, have been shown to have the ability to alter the intestinal microbiota composition in such a way that members of the microbial community, generally considered as health-promoting, are stimulated. Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are the most frequently targeted organisms. Less information exists on effects of inulin-type fructans on the composition, metabolism and healthrelated significance of bacteria at or near the mucosa surface or in the mucus layer forming mucosa-associated biofilms. Using rats inoculated with a human faecal flora as an experimental model we have found that inulin-type fructans in the diet modulated the gut microbiota by stimulation of mucosa-associated bifidobacteria as well as by partial reduction of pathogenic Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Typhimurium and thereby benefit health. In addition to changes in mucosal biofilms, inulin-type fructans also induced changes in the colonic mucosa stimulating proliferation in the crypts, increasing the release of mucins, and altering the profile of mucin components in the goblet cells and epithelial mucus layer. These results indicate that inulin-type fructans may stabilise the gut mucosal barrier. Dietary supplementation with these prebiotics could offer a new approach to supporting the barrier function of the mucosa.
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