Probiotics, prebiotics — now postbiotics? What's known and not about latest gut research_laser freckle removal downtime

Probiotics, prebiotics — now postbiotics? What's known and not about latest gut researchYou may have heard of prebiotics and probiotics, but how about postbiotics? It's a relatively new term and it's an area of research that is very popular right now, microbiologists say.

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Postbiotics are the latest wave of gut biome research, but there are many unknowns, microbiologists say

CBC News(The Associated Press)

Aclinical studyrecently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, found a highly pure supplement of urolithin A — a gut microbiome postbiotic — may improve muscle endurance in older adults. 

Another possible postbiotic, butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid, has been shown in some cases to reduce inflammation, said Andrea Azcarate-Peril, a microbiologist and associate professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's department of medicine and nutrition.

A 2009 study publishedin the peer-reviewed journal Diabetes also found that dietary supplementation of butyrate can "prevent and treat diet-induced insulin resistance" and obesity in mice that were on a high-fat diet.

But Stearns warns the oral supplement hasn't been tested extensively in humans for weight loss.

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Although ISAPP doesn't technically recognizebutyrate as a postbiotic, some of the researchers who spoke to CBC did.

Postbiotics could also prevent common infectious diseases like upper respiratory tract infections and acute gastroenteritis, but more clinical trials are still needed, according to one of the expertsinvolved in crafting the definition of postbiotics.

What don't we know about postbiotics?

Azcarate-Peril said more needs to be done to get a better understanding of how postbiotics may help reduce inflammation and other health concerns — or if  they can't help at all. 

"There's enough knowledge to be more specific" in the research questions asked, she said. 

Stearns said one of the reasons postbiotics are an interesting area of research is because they are "emerging as a safer alternative" to probiotics. 

Probiotics are live organisms and there may be a small risk of infection if given to those who are immunocompromised, she said. Since postbiotics are dead bacteria, there is potential they may be safer for some, adding more research to figure out their potential is needed. 

It's also still unknown how effective an oral postbiotic can be for someone's health and for specific health conditions, said Stearns. 

She said for now, eating fermented foods is an easier way to get "the desirable effect of probiotic and postbiotic organisms."

Produced and written by Stephanie Dubois


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