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Synbiotics refer to food ingredients or dietary supplements combining probiotics and prebiotics in a form of synergism, hence synbiotics.[1] The synbiotic concept was first introduced as "mixtures of probiotics and prebiotics that beneficially affect the host by improving the survival and implantation of live microbial dietary supplements in the gastrointestinal tract, by selectively stimulating the growth and/or by activating the metabolism of one or a limited number of health-promoting bacteria, thus improving host welfare".[2] Synbiotics can be complementary synbiotics, where each component is independently chosen for its effect on host health, or synergistic synbiotics, where the prebiotic component is chosen to support the activity of the chosen probiotic.[3]. Researchers are now developing optimized synbiotics (known as 'optibiotics')[3], which can selectively enhance the growth and health benefits of existing probiotics[4].

Probiotics are live bacteria which are intended to colonize the large intestine and confer physiological health benefits to the host. A prebiotic is a food or dietary supplement product that confers a health benefit on the host associated with modulating the microbiota. Prebiotics are not drugs, not functioning because of absorption of the component, not due to the component acting directly on the host, and are due to changes to the resident bacteria – either changing the proportions of the resident bacteria or the activities thereof. Measurable changes to the microbiota in the absence of a desirable physiological consequence in the host does not qualify as a prebiotic. A prebiotic may be a fiber, but a fiber is not necessarily a prebiotic[3].

Using prebiotics and probiotics in combination is often described as synbiotic, but the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends that the term "synbiotic" be used only if the net health benefit is synergistic.[5]



  1. ^ Pandey KR, Naik SR, Vakil BV (2015). "Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics- a review". J Food Sci Technol. 52: 7577–87. doi:10.1007/s13197-015-1921-1. PMID 26604335. 
  2. ^ Gibson GR, Roberfroid MB (1995). "Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: introducing the concept of prebiotics". J. Nutr. 125 (6): 1401–12. PMID 7782892. 
  3. ^ a b c Rastall, RA. "Targeted Synbiotics to Manipulate the Microbiome for Health" (PDF). p. 10. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  4. ^ Kolida, S; Gibson, GR; Rastall, RA (20 June 2017). "Development of a Targeted Synergistic Synbiotic for Lactobacillus plantarum LPLDL" (PDF). Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  5. ^ Pineiro M, Asp NG, Reid G, Macfarlane S, Morelli L, Brunser O, Tuohy K. "FAO Technical meeting on prebiotics". J Clin Gastroenterol. 42 Suppl 3 Pt 2: S156–9. doi:10.1097/MCG.0b013e31817f184e. PMID 18685504.