We can now add carrots to the list of prebiotics. Prebiotics are compounds that the probiotics in our guts use as nourishment.
Most prebiotics come from plants
Health researchers have been studying probiotics for over three decades. Many diseases have now been associated with a deficiency of these healthy gut microbes.
Often prebiotics are not directly nourishing to our bodies. Many are considered indigestible fiber. These typically come from plant foods, with the exception of dairy and breast milk.
These fibers feed our gut’s probiotics. Probiotics that produce many nutrients our bodies need.
There are several categories of prebiotics. These include:
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – found in chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, garlic, bananas and other foods.
- Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) – found in dairy products
- Human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) – obviously, found in human breast milk
- Arabinoxylans – found in whole wheat bran
- Beta-glucans – found in oats and barley
There are many prebiotics with similar characteristics. These are found mostly in plant-based foods. These include pectins and other types of dietary fiber.
Our gut’s probiotic species will feed from these plant fibers. This probiotic feeding process is technically called fermentation.
Carrot prebiotic boosts healthy probiotics
We can now add another type of prebiotic to the list above.
Researchers from Belgium’s Ghent University tested a pectin derived from carrots. The name given this particular pectin is rhamnogalacturonan I.
The researchers utilized a laboratory human gut model. This was called the Mucosal Simulator Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (or M-SHIME®). The system mimics the human gut with the fermentation of gut microbes.
The researchers found that the carrot-derived Rhamnogalacturonan prebiotic nourished several probiotics. These included Bifidobacterium longum, Bacteroides dorei, Prevotella sp. Some other beneficial species were also boosted, including Phasolarctobacterium faecium and Dialister succinatiphilus.
The researchers confirmed the positive effects on the body by virtue of some of the compounds produced by the probiotics. These included acetate, propionate and short-chain fatty acids. These compounds have been shown to help protect the gut from colon cancer, among other benefits.
The researchers concluded:
“Overall, this study confirms the potential of Rhamnogalacturonan-I to beneficially modulate the human gut microbiome with a marked consistency in SCFA production and microbial modulation across simulated human subjects displaying individual variability at baseline.”
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why carrots help prevent stomach and prostate cancer.
The takeaway is that carrots are not just for rabbits!
Van den Abbeele P, Duysburgh C, Cleenwerck I, Albers R, Marzorati M, Mercenier A. Consistent Prebiotic Effects of Carrot RG-I on the Gut Microbiota of Four Human Adult Donors in the SHIME® Model despite Baseline Individual Variability. Microorganisms. 2021; 9(10):2142. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9102142
Adams C. Probiotics: Protection against Infection. Logical Books, 2009-2021.