Corn extract may ease constipation in the elderly

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cholesterol

Daily supplements of potentially prebiotic isomalto-oligosaccharides may improve bowel habits in elderly people susceptible to constipation, says a new study from Taiwan.

A daily dose of 10 grams of the isomalto-oligosaccharides was associated with improvements in the microflora profile in the colon, as well as improvements in blood cholesterol levels, according to findings published in Nutrition​.

Researchers from the Chung Shan Medical University hypothesized that the benefits were linked to stimulated growth of bifidobacteria in the colon.

If additional studies support these findings it may see isomalto-oligosaccharides established as prebiotics – ingredients defined as “non-digestible (by the host) food ingredients that have a beneficial effect through their selective metabolism in the intestinal tract”​ (Gibson et al. 2004).


“Isomalto-oligosaccharides (IO), such as isomaltose, panose, isomaltotriose, and isomaltotetraose, naturally exist in Japanese fermented foods such as miso, soy sauce, and sako and are commercially produced from corn starch to be a functional food ingredient,” ​explained the researchers.

The ingredient used in this study was supplied by Taiwan’s Tamaru Enterprise Company.

Study details

The Taiwanese researchers recruited 13 constipated elderly subjects with an average age of 82.5 and randomly assigned them to receive either the daily isomalto-oligosaccharide supplements (10 grams per day) or placebo (fructose) for eight weeks.

Data showed that levels of bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and bacteroides in the feces increased significantly increased in the isomalto-oligosaccharide group, while clostridia levels decreased, after four weeks.

After the full eight weeks, the “effects were more pronounced”​, said the researchers. The frequency of spontaneous defecation was also observed to increase, from an average of 1.2 events per week at the start of the study, to 2.0 after eight weeks of supplementation.

The mass of the feces also increased by 24 percent after the supplementation period, added the researchers. However, the after stopping the supplements bowel function declined, they said.

The isomalto-oligosaccharide supplements were also associated with improvements in blood levels of total and LDL cholesterol, compared with placebo. Specifically, total cholesterol levels decreased from 4.1 mmol/L at the start of the study to 3.6 mmol/L at the end, while LDL levels fell from 2.4 to 2.1 mmol/L, reported the researchers.

Safety profile

“The current study extended the feeding period to two months and found the bodyweight, plasma albumin, glucose, triglyceride, urea nitrogen, creatinine, and ALT levels did not change among periods,”​ wrote the researchers.

“No adverse abdominal symptoms were reported either. Therefore, this study suggests its safety for use in the elderly,” ​they concluded.

Source: Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.05.012
“Long-term supplementation of isomalto-oligosaccharides improved colonic microflora profile, bowel function, and blood cholesterol levels in constipated elderly people—A placebo-controlled, diet-controlled trial”
Authors: C-H. Yen, Y-H. Tseng, Y-W. Kuo, M-C. Lee, H-L. Chen

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