Postbiotics is a slowly emerging terms. We’ve heard probiotics, just about got our heads around prebiotics and now postbiotics are entering the scene. Now before you all get sucked away with the latest trend I wanted to share some more information (and more importantly the science behind postbiotics).
Let’s start from the beginning…
What are postbiotics? Postbiotics is a new term for the by-products of probiotics. So for those of you who may not know, probiotics are beneficial bacteria which many people have started feeding to the gut to help the gut bacteria thrive. Probiotics are also found in foods such as yoghurts containing live cultures, kefir (a fermented milk drink), kombucha (a fermented tea drink) and fermented vegetables.
The benefits of probiotics appear to be generated by the by-products (or metabolites) of the probiotics.
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are the most commonly known metabolites of the gut’s beneficial bacteria. Acetate, propionate and butyrate make up the majority of the SCFAs. Some of the benefits associated with SCFAs are reduced inflammation in the gut, blood sugar control and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Other by-products and postbiotics include: P40 molecule, teichoic acid, lactocepin and antimicrobial peptides to name a few. (I’m not trying to go all sciency on you here I just want you to realise that there are many more than just SCFAs).
So, a new ‘theory’ or hype that we’re starting to see gather interest is the idea that you could simply switch your probiotics for postbiotics (if ultimately that’s what they’re going to turn into). In theory this sounds great although we have a few technical problems at the moment. As this is a very new and emerging area scientists are having to workout how they can a) culture these postbiotics into a form that we could take. There are so many different types of postbiotics that they’re also going to need to delve deeper to understand the ones which could be most beneficial. B) Scientists are also still unsure as to how they can ensure that these postbiotics survive the digestion process before reaching the gut. The research so far suggests that postbiotics will be destroyed before they reach the gut and therefore will be unable to do their job.
So, whilst this is a very interesting area I wouldn’t suggest that we get sucked in just yet. Sit tight, let the scientists do their thing and maybe just maybe postbiotics might become a thing of the future!
Patel, R. M., & Denning, P. W. (2013). Therapeutic use of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis: what is the current evidence?. Clinics in perinatology, 40(1), 11-25.
Aguilar-Toalá, J. E., Garcia-Varela, R., Garcia, H. S., Mata-Haro, V., González-Córdova, A. F., Vallejo-Cordoba, B., & Hernández-Mendoza, A. (2018). Postbiotics: An evolving term within the functional foods field. Trends in Food Science & Technology.