Experts on Gut Health Define “Synbiotics”

Having a healthy flora of gut bacteria would provide protection against certain microorganisms causing illnesses. In addition, they play an important part in metabolism, immunity, and digestion.

Nevertheless, infections, diet changes, and antibiotics would affect gut microbiota. This results in several diseases, such as metabolic syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. These conditions might eventually increase the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Taking prebiotics and probiotics supplements would restore a balance of gut bacteria.

25 years ago, scientists first suggested a combination of prebiotics and probiotics into “synbiotic”.

This supplement is gaining more popularity on the market. However, there is still lots of confusion around this term.

To clarify this confusion, the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics set up an expert panel in 2019.

The main goal was to make a clear definition of synbiotics and set up guidance for innovation and research in the future.

The panel includes experts in related fields, including gastrointestinal physiology, nutrition, and microbiology.

A consensus statement by the panel on the scope and definition of synbiotics was published in Nature Reviews: Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

According to the panel, synbiotics are a combination of substrates and live microorganisms used by host microorganisms to provide the host with a health benefit.

In addition, the panel calls products that contain microorganisms combined with a substrate can also help them grow “synergistic synbiotics.”

Synergistic synbiotics mean that the substrate could support probiotic survival. This would be to change the microbiome or provide the probiotic a source of energy.

Experts say that a properly designed study should be conducted to confirm this health benefit.

They suggest that the two elements of a synergistic symbiotic could provide a “super-additive effect.” This means their effect might be greater in combination than separate effects.

Nevertheless, scientists admit that it might be challenging to show this effect in a clinical trial.

In addition, the panel encourages scientists to note that a specific symbiotic product would have different effects on each individual, depending on their sex, age, and health status.

The consensus statement is created to providing guidance for many stakeholders, including consumers, journalists, as well as scientists in industry and academia.

The association is a nonprofit group devoted to providing science-based, objective information. Nevertheless, it is important to know that firms selling those products fund activities of the association.

In fact, the project received funding from Danone, Kellog, Yakult, PepsiCo, and other beverage and food manufacturers.


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