Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Prebiotic vs probiotic

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I came across this short but confused and confusing article a few weeks ago. The article is referencing a study on the effect of prebiotics on maternal weight gain (in rats) during pregnancy. Fairly straightforward until I read the statement: “Dr. Raylene Reimer gave prebiotics – found in food like yogurt or sauerkraut – helped to reduce fat in pregnant rats who were on a high fat and sugar diet.” See my confusion? Either the study involved prebiotics, which are fibre, or the study involved probiotics, which are bacteria (found in cultured and fermented foods such as the ones given in the example).

I found the actual journal article on the study to find out if the research had involved prebiotics or probiotics. It was prebiotics. So, the author of the news article was correct in stating “prebiotics” but confused about what prebiotics actually are. No wonder so many people confuse the two when talking about prebiotics and probiotics. And, to be fair, the terms are incredibly similar.

My trick for remembering the difference between the two? “Pre” means before, and I always think of prebiotics as being what probiotics need before they can grow. Before you can have a healthy gut microbiome, you need food for that bacteria to flourish. That food is the fibre (like that found in grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds).

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

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