Prebiotics are non-digestible food components that impart beneficial effects to health by selectively activating probiotics such as bifidobacteria.
Fig. 17.3. Structures of soy sterols.
Oligosaccharides (raffinose and stachyose) are present in soybean and soy products and constitute about 0.5% and 4.0% of the seed, respectively. Although they are considered undesirable due to their flatus-inducing properties, recent studies have indicated that they also have beneficial effects. They have been reported to stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria in the colon (Tomomatsu, 1994), which provides various health effects. They also inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria (Clostridia perfringens, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria) and enhance bulking of the stool, which dilutes the toxins produced by certain Gram-negative bacteria and eliminate them from the intestines. They convert sugars into lactic and acetic acid and thus reduce the colonic pH, which is beneficial for colonic mucosa. Furthermore, they reduce the risk of colon cancer (Pool-Zobel et al., 2002), modulate the immune system (Bland et al., 2004) and contribute to bone health (Nzeusseu et al., 2006). Purified oligosaccharides in a powdered form are marketed for human consumption in Japan.
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