The use of oligosaccharides as a prebiotic is unknown to many people, as we are more familiar with monosaccharides & polysaccharides. Like its counterparts, oligosaccharide is found in nearly every food that we eat daily.
Research has linked oligosaccharides to critical functions, such as improved cardiovascular health, healthy blood sugar levels, and enhanced weight-loss. This article will educate you on all you need to know about these beneficial compounds.
What Are Oligosaccharides?
Just like polysaccharides and monosaccharides, oligosaccharides belong to the carbohydrate family. It has a composition of 3 – 10 monosaccharides linked to make a chain. Sometimes these monosaccharides are substituted with simple sugars.
Oligosaccharides are similar to monosaccharides in physical and chemical qualities. Both taste sweet, dissolve in water, and may even be found in the same food item.
Similarly, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides share characteristics. However, the difference between both is that the latter is much bigger than the former and may contain as much as 100 monosaccharides while the other's maximum is typically 10.
More importantly, oligosaccharides are probiotics. The body does not directly absorb them, rather are eaten by probiotics, which are recognized as beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria have many benefits to the body, so increased oligosaccharides consumption is associated with improved digestive system, more potent immune function, and many more.
Varieties Of Oligosaccharides
As expected, there are numerous varieties of oligosaccharides available on a diet. These types are determined using the number of molecules contained and the structure and length of the chain.
Let us look at the types you're likely to come across:
- Oligofructose, or fructooligosaccharides/
- Human milk oligosaccharides
Benefits Of Oligosaccharides As A Prebiotic
We mentioned above that oligosaccharides are highly beneficial to the body due to their roles as prebiotics. Below, let us look at these benefits to understand why you should eat more foods rich in oligosaccharides.
Enhances Immunity Function
By feeding the gut bacteria, oligosaccharides can fortify the immune system. They will help the body be more resistant towards diseases and ensure that the body can withstand even more powerful diseases. To be particular, what oligosaccharides do is stimulate the synthesis of cytokines, a special protein that moderates immune function. So, the immune system can be much stronger by increasing this protein production than it originally is.
Asides this, probiotics have their specific contributions to immune functions. So, as oligosaccharides stimulate cytokine's secretion, it is absorbed by beneficial gut bacteria, which are also concerned with the immune system. So, in two ways oligosaccharides foster immune health.
Lowers Levels Of Cholesterol & Triglycerides
Cholesterol and triglycerides are harmful when excessive, and it is quite unfortunate that they are often so. They are precursors to several diseases, particularly heart issues, diabetes, and high blood pressure (causing many more chronic diseases). As such, constant efforts are advised to ensure that these chemicals are moderate in the body.
Thankfully, oligosaccharides can help in that regard. Studies have posted encouraging results on the association of oligosaccharides and triglycerides reduction, thus suggesting that they could improve heart health. A meta-analysis in the Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin, for example, reported that prebiotic supplementation helped to improve total cholesterol and level of triglycerides, as well as increasing the levels of good cholesterol DHL, as against the results posted by a control group.
For specificity, an English study suggests that oligosaccharides can reduce triglycerides in the body by at least 27%.
Improve Digestive Health
One of the foremost benefits of probiotics is their contributions to the digestive system. Thankfully, prebiotics are on hand to see that these beneficial bacteria do not starve and die off. So, you can boldly say that oligosaccharides are an excellent way to improve your digestive function, as well as address any deficiency.
When oligosaccharides are consumed, they are fermented by the gut microbiota leading to the secretion of short-chain fatty acids, which can fortify the intestinal barrier, thus preventing leaky gut and reducing inflammation.
I doubt that you know what a leaky gut is. Typically, it is a condition of continuous intestinal permeability, meaning that the intestinal walls become loose and not tightly fit. Therefore, toxins and food particles in the digestive tract have the opportunity to pollute the bloodstream, triggering a host of negative reactions, including joint pain, nutritional deficiencies, and brain fog.
Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
Having high levels of blood sugar is highly unhealthy. It harms arguably every process within the body, whether respiration, detoxification, or digestion. Common side-effects include increased thirst, fatigue, and needless yet persistent urination.
In 2012, the Federal University of Amazon, Brazil, conducted a study that reported that fructose could reduce blood sugar levels and slow down digestion, thus improving glucose metabolism.
Although on animals, a couple of other studies have suggested that oligosaccharides can enhance insulin sensitivity, which helps the body distribute sugar from the bloodstream to the cells they are needed.
Prebiotics can help to lose weight faster than you think, although I'm not, in any way, suggesting that it is an instant remedy for weight-loss. A recent review in Milan revealed that synbiotics (a combination of prebiotic & probiotic supplements) might foster weight-loss, taking a cue from animal models and human studies.
Furthermore, oligosaccharides will boost the production of probiotics, which also encourage the shedding of fat. So, a serving of oligosaccharide-rich foods on your diet may be a necessary presence daily.
10 Richest Sources Of Oligosaccharides
One can find oligosaccharides in a lot of foods, but as expected, some foods contain higher levels than others. Let us look at 10 of these foods.
- Onions & onions
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Dandelion root
Conclusion On Oligosaccharides As A Prebiotic
You will agree that there are remarkable benefits associated with recognizing oligosaccharides as a prebiotic. You don't need to buy supplements to boost probiotics. Any of the foods listed will do just fine, although a combo isn't bad either.