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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]

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.

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.[3] Probiotic bacteria may colonise the upper part of the intestine to avoid the adhering of pathogens to the intestinal tract and may help in digestion. A prebiotic is a fiber such as fructose oligosaccharide, galactose oligosaccharide, etc., and is consumed that is intended to stimulate the microflora in the large intestine. The combination thus works separately in the small and large intestine, but synergistically as they increase the overall gut health. A common mistake is to require that the prebiotic be shown to increase the population and/or function of the probiotic it is paired with, as the probiotic is an external species, whereas prebiotics stimulate the flora which is already present.



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  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. ^ Pineiro M et al. FAO Technical meeting on prebiotics. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep;42 Suppl 3 Pt 2:S156-9. PMID 18685504
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