Prebiotics and the health benefits of fiber: current regulatory status, future research, and goals

J Nutr. 2012 May;142(5):962-74. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.158147. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


First defined in the mid-1990s, prebiotics, which alter the composition and activity of gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota to improve health and well-being, have generated scientific and consumer interest and regulatory debate. The Life Sciences Research Organization, Inc. (LSRO) held a workshop, Prebiotics and the Health Benefits of Fiber: Future Research and Goals, in February 2011 to assess the current state of the science and the international regulatory environment for prebiotics, identify research gaps, and create a strategy for future research. A developing body of evidence supports a role for prebiotics in reducing the risk and severity of GI infection and inflammation, including diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis as well as bowel function disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome. Prebiotics also increase the bioavailability and uptake of minerals and data suggest that they reduce the risk of obesity by promoting satiety and weight loss. Additional research is needed to define the relationship between the consumption of different prebiotics and improvement of human health. New information derived from the characterization of the composition and function of different prebiotics as well as the interactions among and between gut microbiota and the human host would improve our understanding of the effects of prebiotics on health and disease and could assist in surmounting regulatory issues related to prebiotic use.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / diet therapy
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Diarrhea / diet therapy
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control
  • Dietary Fiber / therapeutic use*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / diet therapy
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / epidemiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / prevention & control
  • Functional Food*
  • Gastroenteritis / diet therapy
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology
  • Gastroenteritis / prevention & control
  • Global Health
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diet therapy
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / epidemiology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / prevention & control
  • Intestinal Diseases* / diet therapy
  • Intestinal Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Intestinal Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Prebiotics*
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Prebiotics