Pre- and pro-biotics may improve mineral absorption and retention in the growing male rat : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Nutritional Science at Massey University, Turitea, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Probiotics are bacteria, which reside in the large intestine and concur beneficial health effects on their host. Their abundance can be selectively-stimulated by prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS); prebiotics are oligosaccharides, which are not digested in the small intestine, but pass into the large intestine where they are fermented into short-chain fatty acids. Several studies have suggested that prebiotics may improve mineral absorption. This study aimed to determine the effects of pro- and pre-biotic supplementation on mineral absorption and bone quality in growing male rats. Sixty three-week old male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomised into five groups and fed either a high-calcium milk powder (HCMP) with or without a probiotic added (groups were subsequently named HCMP - and HCMP + respectively), or HCMP and vitamin K with or without the probiotic (HCMPK - and HCMPK +), or the HCMP with FOS replacing the sucrose in other diets, and the probiotic (the dietary group was named FOS). Animals were maintained on diets for 10 weeks. Balance studies were carried out during weeks 3 - 4 and 8 - 9 of the study. The earlier balance study suggested that dietary interventions may affect mineral absorption. The latter balance study, however, showed no discernable differences between groups. Several reasons were postulated for this. Active-absorption may have been down-regulated as a result of long-term supplementation, or an increased abundance of probiotics could cause an elevation of nutritional demands. Alternatively, supplementation may not prove beneficial once animals had passed their period of peak absorption. Bone resorption and formation did not appear to have been altered as a result of dietary intervention, when measured after 10-weeks. Bone mineral density and content, calcium, magnesium, zinc and ash contents and bone biomechanical testing also showed no significant differences between dietary groups. Further research is required to determine whether results obtained were due to long-term supplementation and / or due to the joint-supplementation of pre- and pro-biotics.