Jill A. Parnell and Raylene A. Reimer
Prebiotic fibers are non-digestible carbohydrates that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Prebiotic consumption may benefit obesity and associated co-morbidities by improving or normalizing the dysbiosis of the gut microbiota. We evaluated the dose response to a prebiotic diet on the gut microbiota, body composition and obesity associated risk factors in lean and genetically obese rats. Prebiotic fibers increased Firmicutes and decreased Bacteroidetes, a profile often associated with a leaner phenotype. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus numbers also increased. Changes in the gut microbiota correlated with energy intake, glucose, insulin, satiety hormones, and hepatic cholesterol and triglyceride accumulation. Here we provide a comprehensive analysis evaluating the results through the lens of the gut microbiota. Salient, new developments impacting the interpretation and significance of our data are discussed. We propose that prebiotic fibers have promise as a safe and cost-effective means of modulating the gut microbiota to promote improved host:bacterial interactions in obesity and insulin resistance. Human clinical trials should be undertaken to confirm these effects.