Probiotics vs Prebiotics: Do You Know the Differences?

January 12, 2023

While both probiotics and prebiotics have been widely studied and used, increased usage of prebiotics in recent times has reflected a greater understanding of their multi-faceted benefits to human health. They sound similar and some may even confuse one for the other. Read on to understand the functions of each.

Probiotics are defined by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) as live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. [1] In essence, probiotic supplements contain good gut bacterial species, including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species. [2]

On the other hand, prebiotics are defined by ISAPP as substrates that are selectively utilized by the host microorganisms conferring a health benefit. [3] To put it simply, prebiotics act as food for the good gut bacteria to provide health benefits.

Prebiotics such as resistant starches and various types of oligosaccharides resist digestion from our human body’s enzymes and travel to the colon largely unchanged.

Our gut microbiota in the colon and the probiotic supplements we take will then feed on and ferment the prebiotics. This fermentation process produces metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that confer health benefits such as providing a main source of energy for our colon cells and having anti-inflammatory properties. [4]

Watch the videos from ISAPP below to learn more.

 

What is a probiotic?

What is a prebiotic?

Videos by The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics

References

  1. Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014;11,506–514.
  2. Rinninella E, Raoul P, Cintoni M, et al. What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases. Microorganisms. 2019 Jan 10;7(1):14.
  3. Gibson, G., Hutkins, R., Sanders, M. et al. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;14:491–502.
  4. Canani RB, Costanzo MD, Leone L, et al. Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar 28;17(12):1519-28.