Lactose-derived prebiotics provide wide ranges of gastrointestinal comforts. In this review article, the probable biochemical mechanisms through which lactose-derived prebiotics offer positive gastrointestinal health are reported along with the up-to-date results of clinical investigations; this might be the first review article of its kind, to the best of our knowledge. Lactose-derived prebiotics have unique biological and functional values, and they are confirmed as ‘safe’ by the Food and Drug Administration federal agency. Medical practitioners frequently recommend them as therapeutics as a pure form or combined with dairy-based products (yoghurt, milk and infant formulas) or fruit juices. The biological activities of lactose-derived prebiotics are expressed in the presence of gut microflora, mainly probiotics (Lactobacillus
spp. in the small intestine and Bifidobacterium
in the large intestine). Clinical investigations reveal that galacto-oligosaccharide reduces the risks of several types of diarrhea (traveler’s diarrhea, osmotic diarrhea and Clostridium difficile associated relapsing diarrhea). Lactulose and lactosucrose prevent inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). Lactulose and lactitol reduce the risk of hepatic encephalopathy. Furthermore, lactulose, galacto-oligosaccharide and lactitol prevent constipation in individuals of all ages. It is expected that the present review article will receive great attention from medical practitioners and food technologists.
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