The effect of wheat prebiotics on the gut bacterial population and iron status of iron deficient broiler chickens

Elad Tako, Raymond Glahn, Marija Knez, James Stangoulis

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    69 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Currently, there is a lot of interest in improving gut health, and consequently increasing Fe absorption, by managing the colonic microbial population. This is traditionally done by the consumption of probiotics, live microbial food supplements. However, an alternative, and often very effective approach, is the consumption of food ingredients known as prebiotics. Fructans and arabinoxylans are naturally occurring non-digestible oligosaccharides in wheat that exhibit prebiotic properties and may enhance intestinal iron (Fe) absorption. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of prebiotics from wheat on Fe bioavailability in vitro (Caco-2 cells) and in vivo (broiler chickens, Gallus gallus). Methods. In the current study, the effect of intra-amniotic administration of wheat samples extracts at 17 d of embryonic incubation on the Fe status and possible changes in the bacterial population in intestinal content of broiler hatchlings were investigated. A group of 144 eggs were injected with the specified solution (1 ml per egg) into the amniotic fluid. Immediately after hatch (21 d) and from each treatment group, 10 chicks were euthanized and their small intestine, liver and cecum were removed for relative mRNA abundance of intestinal Fe related transporters, relative liver ferritin amounts and bacterial analysis of cecal content, respectively. Results: The in vivo results are in agreement with the in vitro observations, showing no differences in the hatchling Fe status between the treatment groups, as Fe bioavailability was not increased in vitro and no significant differences were measured in the intestinal expression of DMT1, Ferroportin and DcytB in vivo. However, there was significant variation in relative amounts of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the intestinal content between the treatments groups, with generally more bifidobacteria being produced with increased prebiotic content. Conclusions: In this study we showed that prebiotics naturally found in wheat grains/bread products significantly increased intestinal beneficial bacterial population in Fe deficient broiler chickens. With this short-term feeding trial we were not able to show differences in the Fe-status of broilers. Nevertheless, the increase in relative amounts of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the presence of wheat prebiotics is an important finding as these bacterial populations may affect Fe bioavailability in long-term studies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number58
    JournalNutrition Journal
    Issue number58
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2014


    • Arabinoxylan
    • Caco-2 cells
    • Chicken
    • Iron bioavailability
    • Prebiotics
    • Probiotics


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