Background: Dietary intervention with prebiotics can cause changes in the colonic microbiota and their metabolic activities.
Aim: To investigate whether the response to prebiotic dosing is influenced by the baseline metabolic activity of the colonic flora and bifidobacteria counts.
Methods: The 4-week effect of lactulose (10 g bid.; n = 29) and oligofructose-enriched inulin (10 g bid.; n = 19) was evaluated in healthy human volunteers. Lactose-[(15)N, (15)N]-ureide was used to study the colonic NH(3)-metabolism. Urine (48 h) and faeces (72 h) were collected and analysed for p-cresol and (15)N-content by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and isotope ratio mass spectrometer, respectively. Faecal bifidobacteria were quantified by real-time polymerase chain reaction.
Results: After the 4-week prebiotic administration period, the urinary excretion of p-cresol and (15)N was significantly decreased in both groups (P < 0.05) corresponding to a significantly higher faecal excretion of (15)N (P < 0.05). The decrease in urinary (15)N and p-cresol excretion significantly correlated with baseline (15)N and p-cresol levels (P < 0.05), indicating that subjects with higher baseline levels showed a higher response to prebiotic dosing. Furthermore, a significant correlation was seen between baseline bifidobacteria counts and the effect of prebiotic intake (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: The response to prebiotic dosing, as indicated by the fate of NH(3), p-cresol and bifidobacteria, is determined by the initial colonic conditions.