The essential role of the gut microbiota for health has generated tremendous interest in modulating its composition and metabolic function. One of these strategies is prebiotics, which typically refer to selectively fermented nondigestible food ingredients or substances that specifically support the growth and/or activity of health-promoting bacteria that colonize the gastrointestinal tract. In this Perspective, we argue that advances in our understanding of diet–microbiome–host interactions challenge important aspects of the current concept of prebiotics, and especially the requirement for effects to be 'selective' or 'specific'. We propose to revise this concept in an effort to shift the focus towards ecological and functional features of the microbiota more likely to be relevant for host physiology. This revision would provide a more rational basis for the identification of prebiotic compounds, and a framework by which the therapeutic potential of modulating the gut microbiota could be more fully materialized.
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Identifying glycan consumers in human gut microbiota samples using metabolic labeling coupled with fluorescence-activated cell sorting
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L.B.B and P.D.C. are, respectively, Postdoctoral Researcher and Research Associate from the F.R.S.-FNRS (Fond National de la Recherche Scientifique, Belgium). P.D.C. is the recipient of an European Research Council Starting Grant 2013 (Starting grant 336452-ENIGMO), FNRS subsidies (credit de recherche convention J.0084.15 and convention 3.4579.11, projet de recherches T0.138.14; Fonds de la recherche scientifique, Belgium), grants from FRFS-WELBIO (WELBIO-CR-2012S-02R) and ARC (Concerted Research Activities-French Community of Belgium convention: 12/17-047). N.M.D. is the recipient of grants from the Région Wallonne (Programme d'excellence 2013, FOOD4GUT), the European Union's Seventh Framework Program (KBBE.2013.2.2-02 MyNewGut project) and the F.R.S-F.N.R.S (CDR J.0122.15). J.W. acknowledges start-up funds from the University of Alberta and thanks S. Loehr (University of Alberta, Canada) for critical reading of the manuscript.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Bindels, L., Delzenne, N., Cani, P. et al. Towards a more comprehensive concept for prebiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 12, 303–310 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrgastro.2015.47
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