What is the difference between fiber and prebiotics, and how do they affect the gut microbiome?

June 28, 2023 2 min read

What is the difference between fiber and prebiotics, and how do they affect the gut microbiome?

Fiber and prebiotics are both important for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. While fiber refers to the indigestible portion of plant-based foods that passes through the digestive system relatively intact, prebiotics are specific types of fiber that are selectively fermented by gut bacteria and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Here are some key differences between fiber and prebiotics:

Composition: Fiber is composed of various types of carbohydrates, including cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin, while prebiotics are composed of specific types of carbohydrates, such as inulin, oligofructose, and galactooligosaccharides.

Fermentation: While all fiber is fermentable to some extent, prebiotics are specifically designed to be selectively fermented by beneficial bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

Effects on the gut microbiome: While fiber promotes overall gut health by promoting bowel regularity and providing a food source for gut bacteria, prebiotics specifically promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can improve digestion, enhance immune function, and reduce inflammation.

Health benefits: Both fiber and prebiotics have been linked to a range of health benefits, including improved digestive health, weight management, and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Here are some good sources of prebiotics:

  1. Chicory root: One of the richest sources of prebiotic fiber, chicory root contains high levels of inulin.
  2. Jerusalem artichokes: These tubers are another good source of inulin and other prebiotic fibers.
  3. Garlic: Garlic contains fructooligosaccharides, which are prebiotic fibers that can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  4. Onions: Similar to garlic, onions contain fructooligosaccharides and other prebiotic fibers that can help support a healthy gut microbiome.
  5. Green Bananas: Green bananas contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as resistant starch, which can act as a prebiotic and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

In summary, while fiber and prebiotics share some similarities in terms of their effects on the gut, prebiotics are a specific type of fiber that is designed to selectively feed beneficial gut bacteria. Including prebiotic-rich foods in your diet can be a good way to support a healthy gut microbiome and promote overall health.

References:

  1. Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417-1435. doi: 10.3390/nu5041417
  2. Gibson, G. R., Hutkins, R., Sanders, M. E., Prescott, S. L., Reimer, R. A., Salminen, S. J., ... & Verbeke, K. (2017). Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 14(8), 491-502. doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2017.75
  3. Holscher, H. D. (2017). Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota. Gut Microbes, 8(2), 172-184. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2017.1290756
  4. Roberfroid, M. B. (2010). Prebiotics and probiotics: are they functional foods?. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(6), 1682s-1687s. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/71.6.1682s
  5. Hutkins, R. W., Krumbeck, J. A., Bindels, L. B., Cani, P. D., Fahey Jr, G., Goh, Y. J., ... & Salminen, S. (2016). Prebiotics: why definitions matter. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 37, 1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2015.09.001


Leave a comment


Also in GUT HEALTH KNOWLEDGE CENTER

8 Ways To Modulate Your Gut For Better Metabolism and Weight Management Cover Image
8 Ways To Modulate Your Gut For Better Metabolism and Weight Management

April 14, 2024 7 min read

Discover eight effective ways to fine-tune your gut health for enhanced metabolism and weight management in our latest blog. From incorporating prebiotics and probiotics to exploring exercise, learn how simple dietary and lifestyle changes can lead to significant health benefits.
Read More
Gut microbiome test results: How PureHMO® prebiotic impacted bacteria strains for a consumer
How PureHMO® prebiotic impacted bacteria strains for a consumer - from gut microbiome test - Case Study

April 11, 2024 7 min read

Take a look at a consumer's gut microbiome data before and after taking PureHMO, and see what beneficial bacteria have been boosted by PureHMO.
Read More
Resistant starch intake facilitates weight loss in humans by reshaping the gut microbiota
Resistant starch intake facilitates weight loss in humans by reshaping the gut microbiota: from a NEW research article

April 05, 2024 6 min read

The study by Li et al., (2024) assessed if resistant starch as a dietary supplement could affect participants with excess weight. Earlier research has shown that resistant starch, a type of fermentable fibre that cannot be digested by humans and is instead, fermented by members of the gut microbiota, can reduce total body fat in mice. 
Read More