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GOS Expertise



What is a Prebiotic?

Prebiotics have recently gained popularity in the mainstream, and product innovation is rising to meet that demand. According to Innova Market Insights, product launches have increased an average of 19% YOY since 2016. This innovation includes products such as yogurt, meal shakes, energy bars, cereals, and chocolate spreads.

But what is a prebiotic? According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), a prebiotic is defined as, “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit. Thus, the concept includes three essential parts: a substance, a physiologically beneficial effect, and a mechanism.” In short, a prebiotic helps the growth of microorganisms that in turn supports health effect.

Sixteen years ago, Gibson et al. categorized galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) as a prebiotic [1]. Today, GOS is among the most researched prebiotics. As defined by Gibson, GOS are non-digestible carbohydrates that remain intact to transit to the colon and readily fermented by beneficial bacteria [2]. The main health functions attributed to GOS through studies include but are not limited to:

1. Supporting the abundance of gut bifidogenic bacteria and impact the gut microbiota in different age groups [3, 4, 5, 6].

2. Supporting calcium absorption in adolescent girls and menopausal women [7, 8].

3. Supporting or maintaining immune function in the age group of 65+ [9, 5].

Prebiotics have many benefits and are an important part of supporting and maintaining a healthy gut microbiota and immune functions. As consumers continue to look for prebiotics, industry is looking to capture these benefits and promote nutrition and health by incorporating ingredients like GOS into new products.

To learn more about the benefits of VITAGOS™ Download Benefits brochure.

Looking for ideas on how to use GOS in your product application? See recipes.


[1] Gibson, G., Probert, H., Loo, J., Rastall, R., & Roberfroid, M. (2004). Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: Updating the concept of prebiotics. Nutrition Research Reviews, 17(2), 259-275. doi:10.1079/NRR200479

[2] Gibson GR, Hutkins RW, Sanders ME, Prescott SL, Reimer RA, Salminen SJ, Scott K, Stanton C, Swanson KS, Cani PD, Verbeke K. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol 2017, 14: 491-502 

[3] Sierra C, Bernal MJ, Blasco J, Martínez R, Dalmau J, Ortuno I, Espín B, Vasallo MI, Gil D, Vidal ML, Infante D. Prebiotic effect during the first year of life in healthy infants fed formula containing GOS as the only prebiotic: a multicentre, randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr 2015, 54: 89-99. 

[4] Vulevic J, Juric A, Tzortzis G, Gibson GR. A mixture of trans-galactooligosaccharides reduces markers of metabolic syndrome and modulates the fecal microbiota and immune function of overweight adults. J Nutr 2013, 143: 324-331. 

[5] Vulevic J, Juric A, Walton GE, Claus SP, Tzortzis G, Toward RE, Gibson GR. Influence of galacto-oligosaccharide mixture (B-GOS) on gut microbiota, immune parameters and metabonomics in elderly persons. Br J Nutr 2015, 114: 586-595. 

[6] Davis LM, Martinez I, Walter J, Hutkins R. A dose dependent impact of prebiotic galactooligosaccharides on the intestinal microbiota of healthy adults. Int J Food Microbiol 2010, 144: 285-292.

[7] Whisner CM, Martin BR, Schoterman MH, Nakatsu CH, McCabe LD, McCabe GP, Wastney ME, Van Den Heuvel EG, Weaver CM. Galacto-oligosaccharides increase calcium absorption and gut bifidobacteria in young girls: a double-blind cross-over trial. Br J Nutr 2013, 110: 1292-1303.

[8] van den Heuvel EG, Schoterman MH, Muijs T. Transgalactooligosaccharides stimulate calcium absorption in postmenopausal women. J Nutr 2000, 130: 2938-2942.

[9] Vulevic J, Drakoularakou A, Yaqoob P, Tzortzis G, Gibson GR. Modulation of the fecal microflora profile and immune function by a novel trans-galactooligosaccharide mixture (B-GOS) in healthy elderly volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr 2008, 88: 1438-1446.