It is now apparent that there is a strong link between health and nutrition and this can be seen clearly when we talk of obesity. The food industry is trying to capitalise on this by adapting high sugar/fat foods to become healthier alternatives. In confectionery food ingredients can be used for a range of purposes including sucrose replacement. Many of these ingredients may also evade digestion in the upper gut and be fermented by the gut microbiota upon entering the colon. This study was designed to screen a range of ingredients and their activities on the gut microbiota. In this study we screened a range of these ingredients in triplicate batch culture fermentations with known prebiotics as controls. Changes in bacteriology were monitored using FISH. SCFA were measured by GC and gas production was assessed during anaerobic batch fermentations. Bacterial enumeration showed significant increases (P < or = 0.05) in bifidobacteria and lactobacilli with polydextrose and most polyols with no significant increases in Clostridium histolyticum/perfringens. SCFA and gas formation indicated that the substrates added to the fermenters were being utilised by the gut microbiota. It therefore appears these ingredients exert some prebiotic activity in vitro. Further studies, particularly in human volunteers, are necessary.
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