Prebiotic effect of diosgenin, an immunoactive steroidal sapogenin of the Chinese yam

Food Chem. 2012 May 1;132(1):428-32. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.11.016. Epub 2011 Nov 10.


This study investigated the effect of diosgenin, a yam-derived phytochemical, on the growth of enteric lactic acid bacteria (LAB). The in vivo effect of diosgenin on the density of intestinal flora was examined in a murine model of food allergy. Oral administration with diosgenin markedly restored the diminished density of faecal LAB associated with allergic reactions. The direct effect of diosgenin and several structure-related steroidal compounds on the growth of faecal anaerobes isolated from diosgenin-administered mice was also investigated. The presence of diosgenin significantly enhanced the growth of Lactobacillus murinus and Lactobacillus reuteri, but not enterococci. Structure-activity relationship analysis showed that the prebiotic activity of steroidal sapogenins might require structural elements of the C5-C6 double bond and intact E- and F-rings. Collectively, these results indicate that steroidal sapogenins may be a novel class of prebiotics to LAB.

Keywords: Chinese yam; Diosgenin; Lactobacillus; Prebiotic; Sapogenin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dioscorea / chemistry*
  • Diosgenin / chemistry
  • Diosgenin / pharmacology*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / microbiology
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Lactobacillus / drug effects
  • Lactobacillus / growth & development*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Plant Tubers / chemistry
  • Prebiotics*
  • Steroids
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Prebiotics
  • Steroids
  • Diosgenin