ISAPP releases updated consensus statement on synbiotics

ISAPP convened a panel of nutritionists, physiologists and microbiologists last May for the review

The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) has released an updated consensus statement on the definition and scope of synbiotics.

The statement, published with open access in Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, notes the synbiotic concept was introduced 25 years ago with a loose definition as mixtures of “probiotics and prebiotics that beneficially affect the host”.

Ongoing stakeholder confusion over this definition, owing to an imprecise initial description and the expansion of the ‘-biotics’ category, compelled ISAPP to convene an expert panel with the aim of clarifying a consensus definition of synbiotics.

The updated definition identifies a synbiotic as “a mixture comprising live microorganisms and substrate(s) selectively utilised by host microorganisms that confers a health benefit on the host”.

The panel considered that defining synbiotics as simply a mixture of probiotics and prebiotics could suppress the development of synbiotics designed to function cooperatively. It also noted a requirement that each component must meet the evidence and dose requirements for probiotics and prebiotics individually could present an obstacle.

The panel defined two distinct subsets of synbiotic; complementary and synergistic. A synergistic synbiotic is one in which the substrate is designed to be selectively utilised by the co-administered microorganism. A complementary synbiotic, is one composed of a probiotic combined with a prebiotic and is designed to target autochtonous (resident or colonizing the host) microorganisms. The minimum criteria for the existing probiotic and prebiotic must be met for both components of a complementary synbiotic.

The panel further clarified that a synbiotic must confer beneficial effects on the health of the target host, which might include humans, companion animals, agricultural species or any subpopulation thereof. A synbiotic can be applied to intestinal or extra-intestinal microbial ecosystems and might be formulated into products fitting an array of regulatory categories (food, non-food, feeds, drugs or supplements).

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