Selective carbohydrate utilization by lactobacilli and bifidobacteria

J Appl Microbiol. 2013 Apr;114(4):1132-46. doi: 10.1111/jam.12105. Epub 2013 Jan 11.


Aim: To evaluate the ability of specific carbohydrates, including commercially available products, to support the growth of representatives of two well-known groups of gut commensals, namely lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Methods and results: Sixty-eight bacterial strains, representing 29 human-derived lactobacilli and 39 bifidobacteria (both human- and animal-derived), were tested for their ability to metabolize 10 different carbohydrates. Analysis of growth and metabolic activity was performed using a combination of diagnostic parameters, such as final OD600 , final pH, fermentation end products and growth rate.

Conclusions: The data assembled in this study provide significant complementary and comparative information on the growth-promoting properties of a range of carbohydrates, while also investigating interspecies differences between lactobacilli and/or bifidobacteria with regard to their carbohydrate utilization abilities. Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and lactulose were shown to support the most favourable growth characteristics, whereas relatively poor growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria was observed on inulin, maltodextrin and polydextrose. GOS/inulin (9 : 1) and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)/inulin mixtures supported mostly similar growth abilities to those obtained for GOS and FOS, respectively. Microbial consumption of GOS, as determined by high-performance anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection, was evident for both lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Significance and impact of the study: These results may allow for the rational prediction of lactobacilli and/or bifidobacteria to be used in conjunction with prebiotics, such as GOS, as synbiotics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bifidobacterium / growth & development
  • Bifidobacterium / metabolism*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Fermentation
  • Glucans / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inulin / metabolism
  • Lactobacillus / growth & development
  • Lactobacillus / metabolism*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism
  • Polysaccharides
  • Prebiotics
  • Species Specificity


  • Glucans
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Polysaccharides
  • Prebiotics
  • maltodextrin
  • Inulin
  • polydextrose