Infants benefit from prebiotics too, indicates study

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fructooligosaccharide, Orafti

Infants formula-makers looking replicate the qualities of breast
milk are turning to prebiotics to boost gut health, according to
Orafti. A new study conducted in France indicates their benefits.

Children under the age of five are one of the groups most susceptible to gastrointestinal infections, particularly when they start attending day care centers. Wim Caers, regulatory and nutrition support manager at Orafti told NutraIngredients.com that there is increasing interest in using prebiotic ingredients in infant and follow-on formulas, on both sides of the Atlantic. "If you compare the health of breast-fed and standard bottle-fed babies, standard bottle fed babies suffer more from constipation," he said. Researchers have found that breast milk naturally contains oligosaccharides, believed to stimulate bifidobacteria - so-called 'friendly' bacteria that help release energy and nutrients from food. Caers said that most of the formulas using prebiotics are currently in development, but the trend has been precipitated by the launch of an initial few. In a new independent study that has been submitted for publication, Professor Butel of the School of Pharmacy assessed the effects of Orafti's Raftilose P95 oligofructose ingredient in a group of 35 infants aged between 6- and 24- months, who were attending a day care center in Paris, France. None of the children had received antibiotics prior to the start of the study, nor had they been breast-fed for the preceding 30 days. They were randomly assigned to two groups, one receiving 2g of Raftilose P95 per day for consumption with foods and drinks and the other receiving a placebo (maltodextrin). In the first week of the six-week study, the infants were merely observed. Supplementation started in the second week and continued for two weeks, after which there was another, post-study observation period. In addition to assessing questionnaires completed by care-givers as to gastrointestinal symptoms and general health, Butel collected stools for bacteriological analysis after the initial observation period and at the start and end of each of the following periods. On analysis, she found that the composition of the colonic flora was beneficially modulated in the oligofructose group compared to the placebo group: After three weeks, they had an increase of 9.5 log cfu (colony forming units) of bifidobacteria per gram of faeces. The increase was greatest in those infants whose colonisation levels were lowest at the start of the trial. Numbers of clostridia (thought to be bacterial pathogens) were also decreased after three weeks of supplementation. Moreover, the oligofructose appeared to have a positive effect on the infants' overall well-being, lowering the number of febrile events and symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, such as flatulence, diarrhoea and vomiting. Raftilose P95 is contained in more than 2,500 food products throughout the world, mostly staples such as breads, cereals and yoghurts. But foods designed specifically for infants are a relatively new application. Orafti is also participating in a recently-started project funded by the European Commission, which aims to investigate the importance of early nutrition in reducing the risk of adult diseases. This project will study the effects of a prebiotic formula containing both inulin and oligofructose, particularly on the immune system and in infants at high risk of developing allergies. External links to companies or organisations mentioned in thisstory: Orafti

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