Potato-derived resistant starch shows prebiotic benefits for the elderly

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/Nednapa
© iStock/Nednapa
A resistant starch derived from potato (Solanum tuberosum) increased the abundance of several species of healthy Bifidobacteria in elderly people, showing the ingredient meets the criteria as a prebiotic, says a new study.

The study, led by scientists from St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre and the University of Manitoba in Canada, also showed that consumption of the commercially available MSPrebiotic product reduced constipation and increased levels of butyrate, a type of short chain fatty acid that is the main source of energy for cells in the colon.

“Our clinical study is the first to demonstrate that the resistant starch MSPrebiotic at 30 g/day is well tolerated and does fit the current definition of a prebiotic,” ​wrote the researchers in Clinical Nutrition​. “Our data demonstrated that MSPrebiotic modulated the gut microbiome (to increase Bifidobacterium, and alter the Firmicutes to Bacteriodetes ratio).

“These findings support the value of this RS as a nutritional supplement that could benefit the gut health of both elderly and mid-age adults.”

The product

MSPrebiotic is a relatively new entrant to the market. The company was founded by brothers Earl and Derek McLaren, who had been farming potatoes in Manitoba, Canada since 1980. Earl and Derek continued potato farming until 2002, when they bought a manufacturing facility and began their journey towards producing a prebiotic gut health supplement.

The product is available in a 454 gram standup pouch and 10 gram packets in a carton of 30. It is currently available online in the USA and Canada, as well as in select small chains and health food stores in Canada and soon California, a company spokesperson told us.

Commenting on the new study’s results, Earl McLaren, president and CEO of MSPrebiotics Inc., said:  “We are delighted to have a clinically-backed prebiotic that will assist people struggling to find a solution to their gut health issues. The role our gut health and microbiome play in our overall wellness has become one of the hottest topics in health care.”

The study was supported financially by MSPrebiotics Inc. and the National Research Council Canada.

Study details

Forty-two elderly people (over the age of 70) and 42 middle-aged people (aged 30-50) completed the prospective, placebo controlled, randomized, double-blinded study. Participants were randomly assigned to a daily MSPrebiotic supplement (30 grams) or placebo (30 grams per day of corn starch) for three months.

Results showed that, at the start of the study, the elderly participants had a significantly higher abundance of Proteobacteria​ (E. coli/Shigella​) compared to the middle-aged participants. However, this difference between the elderly and middle-aged participants was not observed after 12 weeks of consuming the resistant starch.

Both elderly and middle-aged participants consuming the MSPrebiotic product displayed significant increases in Bifidobacterium​, compared to placebo.

“This ability to increase levels of endogenous ​Bifidobacteria in mid-age and elderly adults indicates that MSPrebiotic could be used alone as a nutritional supplement without the need to add a probiotic to achieve this beneficial increase,”​ wrote the researchers. “Given population microbiome differences, caution is needed if extrapolating this finding to other geographic locations.”

Short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production

The data also showed that the resistant starch was associated with a small but statistically significant increase in butyrate levels in the stools of the elderly participants, compared to placebo. This increase in butyrate cannot be explained by the increase in Bifidobacteria, noted the researchers, because these bacteria do not produce this short chain fatty acid (SCFA). This would suggest that there is some so-called cross-feeding in the gut between other bacterial species.

“Subsequently the lactate and acetate produced by ​Bifidobacterium can then cross-feed butyrogenic strains of ​Firmicutes (e.g. ​Roseburia, Eubacterium, Ruminococcus and ​Anaerostipes which are key butyrate-producing genera within the ​Firmicutes phyla),” ​they noted. “Our data would suggest that resistant starch most likely has a type 2 cross-feeding pattern.”

“Further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanisms of the Bifidogenic and butyrogenic effects of MSPrebiotic,”​ they concluded.

Source: Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2017.03.025
“A randomized trial to determine the impact of a digestion resistant starch composition on the gut microbiome in older and mid-age adults”
Authors: M.J. Alfa et al. 

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