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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Impact of a synbiotic food on the gut microbial ecology and metabolic profiles

Beatrice Vitali1, Maurice Ndagijimana2, Federica Cruciani1, Paola Carnevali3, Marco Candela1, Maria Elisabetta Guerzoni2 and Patrizia Brigidi1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

2 Department of Food Science, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

3 R&D Food Microbiology & Bioprocess Research, Barilla G&R f.lli SpA, Parma, Italy

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-4

Published: 7 January 2010

Abstract

Background

The human gut harbors a diverse community of microorganisms which serve numerous important functions for the host wellbeing. Functional foods are commonly used to modulate the composition of the gut microbiota contributing to the maintenance of the host health or prevention of disease. In the present study, we characterized the impact of one month intake of a synbiotic food, containing fructooligosaccharides and the probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus Bar13 and Bifidobacterium longum Bar33, on the gut microbiota composition and metabolic profiles of 20 healthy subjects.

Results

The synbiotic food did not modify the overall structure of the gut microbiome, as indicated by Polymerase Chain Reaction-Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE). The ability of the probiotic L. helveticus and B. longum strains to pass through the gastrointestinal tract was hypothesized on the basis of real-time PCR data. In spite of a stable microbiota, the intake of the synbiotic food resulted in a shift of the fecal metabolic profiles, highlighted by the Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry Solid Phase Micro-Extraction (GC-MS/SPME) analysis. The extent of short chain fatty acids (SCFA), ketones, carbon disulfide and methyl acetate was significantly affected by the synbiotic food consumption. Furthermore, the Canonical discriminant Analysis of Principal coordinates (CAP) of GC-MS/SPME profiles allowed a separation of the stool samples recovered before and after the consumption of the functional food.

Conclusion

In this study we investigated the global impact of a dietary intervention on the gut ecology and metabolism in healthy humans. We demonstrated that the intake of a synbiotic food leads to a modulation of the gut metabolic activities with a maintenance of the gut biostructure. In particular, the significant increase of SCFA, ketones, carbon disulfide and methyl acetate following the feeding period suggests potential health promoting effects of the synbiotic food.