Aim: Functional and metabolic effects of dietary fiber are recognized by the scientific, clinical and nutritional experts. Dietary fiber plays a very significant role in modifying the intestinal microbiota, exerting prebiotic effects such as stimulating the growth and/or function of beneficial intestinal microorganisms. Changes in the gut microbiota composition are classically considered as one of the many factors involved in the pathogenesis of either inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome. The use of particular food products with a prebiotic effect has thus been tested in clinical trials with the objective to improve the clinical activity and well-being of patients with such disorders. Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum (PHGG) is a natural dietary fiber (Benefibra™, Novartis CH Italy): it is a white powder, water-soluble, colorless and transparent in water solution and almost tasteless. PHGG is stable and soluble at various pH levels commonly found in foods as well as resistant to heat, acid, salt, high pressure and digestive enzymes. Low viscosity of PHGG provides a distinct advantage for the use of fiber in enteral feeding products to be administered through feeding tubes. It has been studied in adults, both healthy volunteers and patients, in different disorders such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), enteral nutrition, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and, very recently, in children suffering from functional abdominal pain according to the Rome III Criteria definition for functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs). This review takes stock of the situation concerning what is known to date on PHGG as dietary fiber, in order to give the health care professionals, such as gastroenterologists, dieticians and general practitioners, a complete overview on its intrinsic characteristics, preclinical and clinical evaluations, uses in different situations as supportive therapy in the management of the main intestinal functional disorders both in adults and in children.
Methods: All the papers on PHGG, published from the early 1990s of the Last Century to the Year 2013, have been considered. All types of publications have been included. PubMed, Medline, Ovid were the main sources adopted for data retrieving.
Results: PHGG has been studied in both animals and humans; its safety is well known and several clinical uses are well established. Concerning the modulation of metabolism in human, very little has been done to date and the studies have been focused, for the most part, on the functional diseases: PHGG has been proved to be useful in treating both IBS -C and D symptoms, not only in adults but also in children; data on constipation are relatively scarce and what can be deduced from the Literature is that the high concentration of fiber gives the PHGG the possibility of being used effectively in acceptable dosages (up to 22 g/day) even in situations such as chronic constipation. The use in clinical nutrition has revealed the flexibility of the compound which, owing to its peculiar characteristics, does not gel and remains liquid, PHGG can be used successfully in patients in enteral nutrition lowering the incidence of diarrhea. New open horizons can be glimpsed for SIBO treatment, lowering or maximizing the antibiotics use.
Conclusion: Not all the fibers are the same: this is a fact. Promoting the specific knowledge of their characteristics is very important if healthcare professionals want to give their patients the best options for functional gastrointestinal disorders or nutritional needs. PHGG (Benefiber™ Novartis CH) has been proved to be safe and effective in promoting gut health.