Wholegrain wheat consumed in the form of a breakfast cereal can provide a natural prebiotic effect, according to new research from Reading University.
The research is the first to suggest that a whole, natural food possesses a prebiotic activity and may help to explain why epidemiological studies show health benefits in diets high in wholegrain cereals, said Dr Kieran Tuohy, research fellow at the Department of Food Biosciences at Reading University.
He noted that processing and production had a major impact on effect of the grain: while (the less processed, wholegrain) Shredded Wheat, Shreddies and Cheerios were all proven to have a prebiotic effect on the gut microflora, bran cereals, which are made just from the husk, had no prebiotic effect.
Researchers found that the prebiotic cereals increased levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria - ‘friendly bacteria’ - in a lab test that emulated the human gut. They then fed 38 adults a bowl of Shredded Wheat a day for three weeks to see whether these effects were reproduced in humans. The adults’ levels of friendly bacteria significantly increased and Shredded Wheat was proven to be the most prebiotic of the cereals tested (according to percentage of wholegrain content).
“Eating foods containing prebiotics is good for health and overall wellbeing. We know foods containing wholegrain are healthy in terms of heart health and weight management and now it is great that some wholegrains have been shown to have a natural prebiotic effect,” said Tuohy.