Nutritional Outlook

Nutritional Outlook, May 2018

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■ NUTRITIONAL OUTLOOK 40 Prebiotics MAY 2018 H ere's a quick round of word asso- ciation: I say "prebiotic" and you think…"Fiber," right? If that was your choice, you're not alone. Nor are you without reason: In 2006, FDA guidance 1 not only rein- forced the prevailing def nition of prebiotics as "nondigestible food ingredients that ben- ef cially af ect the host by selectively stimu- lating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon"— that is, "f ber"—but singled out oligosaccha- rides as "commonly used" prebiotics, to boot. So it's not surprising that when most of us think about what feeds our friendly intestinal f ora, we think of f ber. Now, however, emerging research suggests that this def nition may in fact be too narrow. In short, it's possible that some probiotic bacteria may receive aid and comfort from compounds that don't fall under the histori- cally f brous prebiotic rubric. Case in point: polyphenols, which "are being recognized for their prebiotic potential in addition to their wider range of health benef ts," says Shaheen Majeed, president worldwide, Sabinsa (East Windsor, NJ). T ough evidence for polyphenols' prebiotic potential remains nascent, the possibility it holds for synbiotic formulation deserves at- tention. So those in the know are keeping their eyes on polyphenols and the prebiotic science surrounding them. As Majeed says, "T ese ef ects are real, and polyphenols are here to make a dif erence in the prebiotic category." Polyphenolic Protection It's not as if polyphenols didn't already de- serve our love. T ese naturally occurring anti- oxidant phytochemicals—more than 8,000 of which have been identif ed in sources rang- ing from fruits and vegetables to tea, wine, chocolate, and olive oil—are the second-most abundant compounds in plants, trailing only carbohydrates. As a class, they comprise stilbenes, lig- nans, phenolic acids, and f avonoids, and they exist, more or less, to protect their plant parents. But over the years, says Majeed, "re- search has suggested that polyphenols play a vital role in promoting our vitality and op- timal health and wellness," too, along with those of plants. Researchers are digging into the possible prebiotic potential of polyphenols, including those from cranberry. BY KIMBERLY J. DECKER POLYPHENOL PREBIOTIC? THE ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/ WILSHIREIMAGES

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