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A spoonful of prebiotic a day can help avoid holiday runny tum – University of Reading

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A spoonful of prebiotic a day can help avoid holiday runny tum

Release Date 02 October 2009

As the summer holiday tan begins to fade, the latest research has found that taking a prebiotic supplement can help to prevent travellers diarrhoea. Research in the Departmentof Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading established that, for individuals visiting areas which are considered hot spots for travellers diarrhoea, taking a teaspoon (5g) of prebiotics per day while on holiday decreased the incidence and severity of bouts of the condition, and when individuals did experience it, they recovered more quickly.

Prebiotics have attracted interest for their ability to positively affect gastrointestinal health and function. They are non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the gut by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one, or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and which may thus improve the health of the host. Prebiotics induce antimicrobial effects principally by selectively stimulating the beneficial bacteria already present in your gut.

Glenn Gibson, Professor of Food Microbial Sciences at the University of Reading, said: "We all know to take sun cream on holiday to protect our skin, but you won't need it if you are stuck on the loo for the two weeks! Taking a simple supplement to help prevent diarrhoea may soon become part of our normal holiday routine. The great thing about prebiotics is they are safe and have no side effects, whereas taking medication like antibiotics when you get diarrhoea can damage your gut flora even more."

"Our research in this area also has possible applications for the military and for athletes where a safe supplement could be taken to reduce the incidence and severity of diarrhoea, thereby enhancing performance."

This research assessed the effectiveness of a prebiotic galactooligosaccharide mixture (B-GOS) on the severity and/or incidence of travellers' diarrhoea.

The study used 160 healthy volunteers, who travelled for a minimum of two weeks to a country that was considered of low or high risk for travellers' diarrhoea. They were given with the prebiotic B-GOS or the placebo Maltodextrin. Results showed significant differences between the prebiotic and a placebo group in not only the duration but also the incidence of travellers' diarrhoea.

A significantly lower number of subjects who consumed the prebiotic experienced diarrheal episodes during the holiday period compared to the placebo group. Similar findings occurred on the duration of diarrhoea, abdominal pain and also their overall quality of life assessment.

Travellers' diarrhoea is one of the most common conditions experienced by individuals travelling to a developing country. Between 20–50% of travellers are struck down by it and it has been estimated that the disorder can affect over 11 million people annually. In 90% of patients who contract travellers' diarrhoea symptoms occur within the first two weeks of travel. Studies have shown that bacteria and some viruses are the most common cause of travellers' diarrhoea.

Management of the condition has so far been based on the treatment of the condition using antibiotics and anti-diarrhoea medications. However, these agents also have an impact on the positive bacteria we all have in our guts. Thus, alternative or supplementary approaches of preventative nature could be very useful.

The researchers recommend that frequent travellers and other persons at high risk of gastroenteritis (e.g. going to hospital or taking antibiotics) use a prebiotic supplement like GOS or FOS to reduce risk. The same effect may occur with some probiotics.

ENDS

Further information from Alex Brannen, University of Reading Media Relations Manager,on 0118 378 7388

Notes to editors:

The research has just been published by European Journal of Clinical Nutrition -A double blind, placebo controlled, randomised human study assessing the capacity of a galactooligosaccharide mixture in reducing travelers' diarrhea - Alexandra Drakoularakou1, George Tzortzis2, Robert A Rastall1, Glenn R Gibson1 – Sep 2009

The study was a placebo-controlled, randomized, double blind parallel design using 160 healthy volunteers, who travelled for a minimum of two weeks to a country that was considered of low or high risk for travellers' diarrhoea. The prebiotic used was B-GOS and the placebo was maltodextrin. Volunteers were randomized into balanced blocks with an equal probability of receiving either the prebiotic or placebo. Results showed significant differences between the prebiotic and a placebo group in not only the duration but also the incidence of travellers' diarrhoea.

High risk destinations for incidence of travellers' diarrhoea include Asia, The Middle East, Africa, Mexico, Central and South America. Low risk areas included Turkey, S. Africa and The Carribean Islands - as determined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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