Prebiotic inulin-type fructans induce specific changes in the human gut microbiota

Gut. 2017 Nov;66(11):1968-1974. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313271. Epub 2017 Feb 17.


Objective: Contrary to the long-standing prerequisite of inducing selective (ie, bifidogenic) effects, recent findings suggest that prebiotic interventions lead to ecosystem-wide microbiota shifts. Yet, a comprehensive characterisation of this process is still lacking. Here, we apply 16S rDNA microbiota profiling and matching (gas chromatography mass spectrometry) metabolomics to assess the consequences of inulin fermentation both on the composition of the colon bacterial ecosystem and faecal metabolites profiles.

Design: Faecal samples collected during a double-blind, randomised, cross-over intervention study set up to assess the effect of inulin consumption on stool frequency in healthy adults with mild constipation were analysed. Faecal microbiota composition and metabolite profiles were linked to the study's clinical outcome as well as to quality-of-life measurements recorded.

Results: While faecal metabolite profiles were not significantly altered by inulin consumption, our analyses did detect a modest effect on global microbiota composition and specific inulin-induced changes in relative abundances of Anaerostipes, Bilophila and Bifidobacterium were identified. The observed decrease in Bilophila abundances following inulin consumption was associated with both softer stools and a favourable change in constipation-specific quality-of-life measures.

Conclusions: Ecosystem-wide analysis of the effect of a dietary intervention with prebiotic inulin-type fructans on the colon microbiota revealed that this effect is specifically associated with three genera, one of which (Bilophila) representing a promising novel target for mechanistic research.

Trial registration number: NCT02548247.


Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Colon / microbiology*
  • Constipation / diet therapy
  • Constipation / microbiology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inulin* / metabolism
  • Inulin* / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Metabolome
  • Prebiotics / microbiology*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers
  • Prebiotics
  • Inulin

Associated data