Background: Short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scFOS) are increasingly used in human diet for their prebiotic properties. We aimed at investigating the effects of scFOS ingestion on the colonic microflora and oro-fecal transit time in elderly healthy humans.
Methods: Stools composition, oro-fecal transit time, and clinical tolerance were evaluated in 12 healthy volunteers, aged 69 +/- 2 yrs, in three consecutive periods: basal period (2 weeks), scFOS (Actilight) ingestion period (8 g/d for 4 weeks) and follow-up period (4 weeks). Two-way ANOVA, with time and treatment as factors, was used to compare the main outcome measures between the three periods.
Results: Fecal bifidobacteria counts were significantly increased during the scFOS period (9.17 +/- 0.17 log cfu/g vs 8.52 +/- 0.26 log cfu/g during the basal period) and returned to their initial values at the end of follow-up (8.37 +/- 0.21 log cfu/g; P < 0.05). Fecal cholesterol concentration increased during the scFOS period (8.18 +/- 2.37 mg/g dry matter vs 2.81 +/- 0.94 mg/g dry matter during the basal period) and returned to the baseline value at the end of follow-up (2.87 +/- 0.44 mg/g dry matter; P < 0.05). Fecal pH tended to decrease during scFOS ingestion and follow-up periods compared to the basal period (P = 0.06). Fecal bile acids, stool weight, water percentage, and oro-fecal transit time did not change throughout the study. Excess flatus and bloating were significantly more frequent during scFOS ingestion when compared to the basal period (P < 0.05), but the intensity of these symptoms was very mild.
Conclusion: Four-week 8 g/d scFOS ingestion is well tolerated and leads to a significant increase in fecal bifidobacteria in healthy elderly subjects. Whether the change in cholesterol metabolism found in our study could exert a beneficial action warrants further studies.