Prebiotics: the concept revisited

J Nutr. 2007 Mar;137(3 Suppl 2):830S-7S. doi: 10.1093/jn/137.3.830S.


A prebiotic is "a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well-being and health." Today, only 2 dietary nondigestible oligosaccharides fulfill all the criteria for prebiotic classification. The daily dose of the prebiotic is not a determinant of the prebiotic effect, which is mainly influenced by the number of bifidobacteria/g in feces before supplementation of the diet with the prebiotic begins. The ingested prebiotic stimulates the whole indigenous population of bifidobacteria to growth, and the larger that population, the larger is the number of new bacterial cells appearing in feces. The "dose argument" is thus not supported by the scientific data: it is misleading for consumers and should not be allowed. A prebiotic index is proposed, defined as "the increase in the absolute number of bifidobacteria expressed divided by the daily dose of prebiotic ingested."

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cultured Milk Products*
  • Food, Organic
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage*