Probiotics, prebiotics and health

The critical role of the gut microflora in human health has become increasing recognized. Situations where the microflora is disturbed, for example by antibiotics, can lead to increased susceptibility to gastrointestinal infections, some extremely serious such as Clostridium difficile. There is also evidence for involvement of the microflora in inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer.

Probiotics (live microorganisms with benefits for health) and Prebiotics (poorly-digested food ingredients that stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria)have been developed to improve the balance of the microflora by increasing the levels of potentially beneficial bacteria in the gut. In collaboration with colleagues in the Food and Microbial Sciences Unit in Food Biosciences, we are investigating the potential health benefits of probiotic and prebiotics using in vitro models to evaluate effects on production of bioactive metabolites in the gut, to study changes in immune function and to assess potential anti-cancer activity. These in vitro studies are complemented by human dietary intervention trials in which healthy volunteers are fed probiotics and/or prebiotics and markers of immune function, gut health and cancer risk

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