Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and, thus, may improve the host's health. In particular, fructooligosaccharide (FOS), a fermentable fiber and prebiotic found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and grains, has been shown to improve the intestinal microflora population, improve stool quality, and enhance nutrient absorption.1 Results of a recent study (described below) suggest that FOS inclusion in the matrix of a wellness diet could support intestinal health through promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibiting the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria.
Figure 1: Fecal concentrations of potential pathogens
Forty-seven healthy adult dogs were included in a randomized parallel-design study that included two phases, a 21-day control period and a 36-day test period. During the control period, all of the dogs were fed Eukanuba Adult Maintenance without FOS (control diet). Then during the test period, the dogs were fed Eukanuba Adult Maintenance with one of two wellness levels of FOS. Each dog served as its own control.
Figure 2: Fecal concentration of lactobacilli
Fresh fecal samples were collected at four days and at one day before the test period and then on test period days 14 and 28. Collected samples were analyzed using conventional microbiological plating techniques for the following potentially pathogenic intestinal bacteria: bacteroides, Escherichia coli, eubacteria, and Clostridium perfringens and for the beneficial bacteria lactobacilli. The mean bacterial concentration from the samples taken four days and one day before the test period from each dog was used as that dog's control value. By using a repeated measures mixed linear model, these control values were then compared with values from test period days 14 and 28 and with the mean value for these two days; P < 0.05 was considered significant. Results from the test period were expressed as mean percent change from the control value.
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The results of the study showed that FOS supplementation:
- Significantly decreased mean fecal E. coli concentration (see Figure 1) at both levels of FOS inclusion.
- Decreased fecal concentrations of bacteriodes and eubacteria (see Figure 1). These decreases were statistically significant only with FOS level 2 inclusion.
- Increased fecal concentrations of lactobacilli (see Figure 2). This increase was statistically significant only with FOS level 1 inclusion.
- Did not significantly change fecal concentrations of C. perfringens.