Prebiotics and Probiotics: Occurrence and characteristic features

Prebiotics and Probiotics: Occurrence and characteristic features 

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics and probiotics are two different types of compounds that play a role in supporting the health of the gut microbiota. Here are the occurrence and characteristic features of prebiotics and probiotics:



Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that occurs naturally in certain foods. Some common sources of prebiotics include:

1. Chicory root: Chicory root is one of the richest sources of prebiotics, specifically inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

2. Jerusalem artichoke: Jerusalem artichoke is rich in inulin, which is a prebiotic fiber.

3. Garlic: Garlic contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin, both of which serve as prebiotics.

4. Onions: Onions are a source of fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which have prebiotic properties.

5. Bananas: Bananas contain a type of prebiotic fiber called resistant starch.

Characteristic Features:

Prebiotics have the following characteristic features:

1. Non-digestible: Prebiotics are carbohydrates that are not fully broken down or absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract and reach the colon intact.

2. Fermentable: Prebiotics can be fermented by the beneficial bacteria in the colon, leading to the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate.

3. Selectively utilized: Prebiotics selectively promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, in the gut microbiota.

4. Promote gut health: Prebiotics help improve the balance and diversity of the gut microbiota, support intestinal barrier function, enhance nutrient absorption, and contribute to overall gut health.



Probiotics are live microorganisms that can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They are found in various fermented foods and dietary supplements. Some common sources of probiotics include:

1. Yogurt: Yogurt is a popular source of probiotics, typically containing strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

2. Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk drink that contains a variety of probiotic bacteria and yeasts.

3. Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage and often contains Lactobacillus bacteria.

4. Kimchi: Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables, including cabbage, radishes, and scallions.

5. Tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that contains beneficial bacteria like Bacillus subtilis.

6. Probiotic supplements: Probiotics are also available in the form of capsules, tablets, and powders, providing specific strains of beneficial bacteria.

Characteristic Features:

Probiotics have the following characteristic features:

1. Live microorganisms: Probiotics are living bacteria or yeasts that, when consumed, can colonize the gastrointestinal tract and interact with the gut microbiota.

2. Strain-specific effects: Different strains of probiotics may have varying effects on health. Each strain may have specific characteristics and mechanisms of action.

3. Beneficial effects: Probiotics can help maintain or restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria, support digestion, enhance nutrient absorption, strengthen the immune system, and promote overall gut health.

4. Stability: Probiotics should be able to survive the acidic environment of the stomach and reach the intestines alive to exert their beneficial effects.

5. Dosage-dependent: The health benefits of probiotics are dose-dependent, meaning that an adequate amount needs to be consumed to have a significant impact on gut health.

It’s worth noting that both prebiotics and probiotics can be consumed together to support healthy gut microbiota. Prebiotics provide nourishment to the beneficial bacteria, while probiotics introduce live microorganisms into the gut. The combination of prebiotics and probiotics is often referred to as synbiotics, which can have synergistic effects on gut health.


Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are a type of prebiotic fiber that consists of short chains of fructose molecules. They occur naturally in various plants and have characteristic features that contribute to their health benefits. Here are the occurrence and characteristic features of fructo-oligosaccharides:


1. Chicory Root: Chicory root is the primary source of fructo-oligosaccharides. It contains a high concentration of inulin, which is a type of fructo-oligosaccharide.

2. Jerusalem Artichoke: Jerusalem artichoke is another significant source of fructo-oligosaccharides. It contains inulin and other fructo-oligosaccharides.

3. Onions and Garlic: Onions and garlic also contain fructo-oligosaccharides, although in smaller amounts compared to chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke.

4. Wheat and Rye: Wheat and rye are grains that contain fructo-oligosaccharides, particularly in the form of inulin.

5. Bananas: Bananas contain a type of fructo-oligosaccharide known as resistant starch, which acts as a prebiotic in the gut.

Characteristic Features:

1. Prebiotic Properties: Fructo-oligosaccharides are classified as prebiotics because they selectively stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut, particularly Bifidobacteria. They serve as a food source for these beneficial bacteria, promoting their colonization and proliferation.

2. Non-Digestible: Fructo-oligosaccharides are not broken down by human digestive enzymes in the upper gastrointestinal tract, which allows them to reach the colon intact. In the colon, they are fermented by the gut microbiota, leading to the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate.

3. Sweetness and Solubility: Fructo-oligosaccharides have a slightly sweet taste and are water-soluble, making them easy to incorporate into various food and beverage products.

4. Low Caloric Value: Fructo-oligosaccharides have a lower caloric value compared to other carbohydrates, as they are not fully digested and absorbed by the human body.

5. Prebiotic Effects: Fructo-oligosaccharides provide several health benefits, including:

Promotion of a healthy gut microbiota: By selectively stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria, fructo-oligosaccharides help maintain a balanced and diverse gut microbiota, which is important for overall gut health.

Improved digestive health: Fructo-oligosaccharides can help alleviate constipation, as they have a prebiotic effect and can increase stool frequency and consistency.

Enhanced nutrient absorption: The fermentation of fructo-oligosaccharides in the colon produces SCFAs, which help improve the absorption of certain nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium.

Potential immune modulation: Fructo-oligosaccharides may have immune-modulating effects, supporting the immune system’s function and contributing to overall immune health.

Fructo-oligosaccharides are commonly used as food ingredients and are added to various products, including functional foods, beverages, and dietary supplements, to provide their prebiotic benefits.


Lactobacillus is a genus of bacteria that belongs to the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) group. They are Gram-positive, non-spore-forming bacteria that are commonly found in various environments, including the human body and fermented foods. Here are the occurrence and characteristic features of Lactobacillus:


1. Human Body: Lactobacillus species are part of the natural microbiota of various body sites, including the gastrointestinal tract, oral cavity, and urogenital tract. They play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the microbiota and supporting overall health.

2. Fermented Foods: Lactobacillus species are widely used in the production of fermented foods, where they contribute to the fermentation process and provide characteristic flavors and textures. Examples of fermented foods that contain Lactobacillus include yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and sourdough bread.

3. Environment: Lactobacillus can also be found in environmental niches such as soil, plants, and water.

Characteristic Features:

1. Fermentative Metabolism: Lactobacillus species are known for their fermentative metabolism, converting sugars into lactic acid through a process called lactic acid fermentation. This metabolic pathway helps acidify the environment, contributing to food preservation and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.

2. Acid and Tolerance: Lactobacillus species can tolerate acidic conditions and thrive in low-pH environments. This characteristic enables them to survive the acidic conditions of the stomach and colonize the gastrointestinal tract.

3. Probiotic Potential: Certain strains of Lactobacillus have been extensively studied for their probiotic properties. Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer health benefits to the host. Lactobacillus probiotics have been associated with various health benefits, including supporting digestive health, enhancing immune function, promoting vaginal health, and potentially preventing or alleviating certain gastrointestinal disorders.

4. Adhesion and Colonization: Lactobacillus species have the ability to adhere to and colonize the mucosal surfaces of the gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts. This adhesion ability allows them to interact with the host’s cells and exert their beneficial effects.

5. Production of Metabolites: Lactobacillus can produce a variety of metabolites, such as lactic acid, bacteriocins (antimicrobial peptides), and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These metabolites can contribute to the maintenance of gut health, inhibit the growth of pathogens, and modulate immune and inflammatory responses.

6. Genetic Diversity: The genus Lactobacillus encompasses a wide range of species and strains, each with its own characteristics and potential health benefits. Different strains may have varying abilities to survive passage through the gastrointestinal tract, adhere to epithelial cells, produce specific metabolites, and confer specific health benefits.

It’s important to note that while Lactobacillus species have been extensively studied for their potential health benefits, not all strains within the genus have the same effects. The specific strain and its characteristics play a significant role in determining the benefits it can provide.

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