The study – published in the Journal of Nutrition – reports that supplementation with galacto-oligosaccharide reduces the severity of colitis by boosting the body’s immune system. The authors said the fibre supplement acts by enhancing the functions of natural killer cells, which in turn have greater bacteria fighting power and work to reduce inflammation more effectively.
Led by Jenifer Fenton, researchers from Michigan State University, USA, found that mice given the prebiotic had significant reductions in the severity of colitis in addition to greatly decreasing the risk of colon cancer.
"There is something unique about certain types of fibers, such as GOS, and how they alter cells and influence the immune system to change disease risk, either for the good or bad," said Fenton. "Our overall goal is to identify either dietary patterns or diet components to reduce inflammation and cancer risk.
"In this case, we used prebiotics to stimulate changes in bacteria in the gut that may have a beneficial impact on the colon,” she said, adding that the results suggest that the probiotic may be effective in reducing colitis severity “by priming the innate immune system."
Fenton and her team fed mice with 5000 mg of GOS per kg of body weight per day for two weeks prior to infection and for four weeks post infection – a time period at which colitis severity peaks in this model. Mice fed GOS were found to have a 50% reduction in colitis.
Fenton said the positive results were linked to the significant enhancement of natural killer cells, that are crucial in fighting off new infections in the body.
“These data suggest that GOS reduces colitis by modulating the function and trafficking of NK cells.”
Source: The Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3945/jn.111.154732
"Supplementation with Galacto-Oligosaccharides Increases the Percentage of NK Cells and Reduces Colitis Severity inSmad3-Deficient Mice
Authors: A. Gopalakrishnan, J.F. Clinthorne, E.A. Rondini, S.J. McCaskey