Extraction and characterisation of arabinoxylan from brewers spent grain and investigation of microbiome modulation potential

Eur J Nutr. 2021 Dec;60(8):4393-4411. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02570-8. Epub 2021 May 31.


Purpose: Brewers' spent grain (BSG) represents the largest by-product of the brewing industry. Its utilisation as an animal feed has become less practical today; however, its high fibre and protein content make it a promising untapped resource for human nutrition. BSG contains mainly insoluble fibre. This fibre, along with protein, is trapped with the complex lignocellulosic cell structure and must be solubilised to release components which may be beneficial to health through modulation of the gut microbiota.

Methods: In this study, the application of a simultaneous saccharification and fermentation process for the extraction and solubilisation of arabinoxylan from BSG is demonstrated.

Results: Processing of the BSG was varied to modulate the physicochemical and molecular characteristic of the released arabinoxylan. The maximum level of arabinoxylan solubilisation achieved was approximately 21%, compared to the unprocessed BSG which contained no soluble arabinoxylan (AX). Concentration of the solubilised material produced a sample containing 99% soluble AX. Samples were investigated for their microbiome modulating capacity in in-vitro faecal fermentation trials. Many samples promoted increased Lactobacillus levels (approx. twofold). One sample that contained the highest level of soluble AX was shown to be bifidogenic, increasing the levels of this genus approx. 3.5-fold as well as acetate (p = 0.018) and propionate (p < 0.001) production.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that AX extracted from BSG has prebiotic potential. The demonstration that BSG is a source of functional fibre is a promising step towards the application of this brewing side-stream as a functional food ingredient for human nutrition.

Keywords: Arabinoxylan; Fibre; Microbiome; Prebiotic.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Edible Grain*
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Xylans


  • Xylans
  • arabinoxylan