Distant site effects of ingested prebiotics
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The gut microbiome is being more widely recognized for its association with positive health outcomes, including those distant to the gastrointestinal system. This has given the ability to maintain and restore microbial homeostasis a new significance. Prebiotic compounds are appealing for this purpose as they are generally food-grade substances only degraded by microbes, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, from which beneficial short-chain fatty acids are produced. Saccharides such as inulin and other fructo-oligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, and polydextrose have been widely used to improve gastrointestinal outcomes, but they appear to also influence distant sites. This review examined the effects of prebiotics on bone strength, neural and cognitive processes, immune functioning, skin, and serum lipid profile. The mode of action is in part affected by intestinal permeability and by fermentation products reaching target cells. As the types of prebiotics available diversify, so too will our understanding of the range of microbes able to degrade them, and the extent to which body sites can be impacted by their consumption.