Friday, February 23, 2007

Prebiotics - or how I became friends with my gut flora

Enjoy here a very technical paper on the significance of breast milk as a prebiotic substrate.

We as humans cooperate with a wide variety of organisms to complete tasks such as keeping our skin healthy, driving away pathogenic diseases and of course, digesting our food. Of course, we don't start out with these great bugs in our guts - we're just full of black stuff. Those vital bacteria must be introduced and in order to persuade them to move in, we need something they want, in this case a food source.

Essentially what this shows is that the gut flora (B. infantis) grows much quicker and greater on the HMO substrate(the squares), the unique sugar found in breast milk as opposed to glucose(the triangles), the simple sugar found in most foods. Inulin (the diamonds) is a ubiquitous prebiotic you find in foods like yogurt and acts as a control for selective growth. The second figure is a control bacterium not normally found in the gut. It appears Mom drives gut flora population, because without all those decent, respectable bacteria taking up all the gut space, you might have some ah, undesirables move in.

Of course, lots of things can disrupt gut flora, including something as innocuous as antibacterial soap. It's not surprising that there's a correlation of antibacterial soap usage with sick kids and adults, eh?

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