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Probiotics and prebiotics: the state of the art

The gut microbiota plays an important role in both human health and disease, and the supplementation of the diet with probiotics and prebiotics may ensure an appropriate equilibrium of this microbiota. Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of a limited number of bacteria present in the colon. A product referred as symbiotic is one in which probiotics and prebiotics are combined. This article presents the state of the art about probiotics and prebiotics, reporting new concepts, the benefits these food ingredients provide for the human health, and the possible mechanisms involved, discussing health claims attributed to them, and pointing out recent findings reported, based on experimental scientific evidence. Other aspects, such as selection and applications of probiotics and prebiotics are also discussed.

Probiotics; Prebiotics; Functional food; Lactobacillus; Bifidobacterium; Oligosaccharides

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