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Pure Appl. Chem., 2002, Vol. 74, No. 7, pp. 1271-1279

Novel physiological functions of oligosaccharides

Masao Hirayama

Health and Bioscience Laboratories, Meiji Seika Kaisha, Ltd., 5-3-1 Chiyoda, Sakado-shi, Saitama 350-0289, Japan

Abstract: This paper reviews the evidence for novel physiological functions of oligosaccharides. A history of the research and development and the types of health benefits are discussed. A key property of the physiological functions lies in the indigestibility of oligosaccharides, which gives rise to fermentation in the large intestine, followed by an increase of Bifidobacteria and short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production. This property leads to several kinds of physiological functions, classified into three types of health benefits. The first is the improvement of gastrointestinal conditions, including a normal stool frequency, less constipation, and healthy intestinal microflora. The second is the promotion of mineral absorption, including an increase of bone density and relief of anemia. The third is an immunomodulation effect, such as allergy and cancer prevention.