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Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are a type of prebiotic fibre found in various plant sources, including all varieties of pulses/legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans. These foods offer several beneficial effects for human health as a source of GOS.1Mei Z, Yuan J, Li D. Biological activity of galacto-oligosaccharides: A review. Front Microbiol. 2022 Sep 6;13:993052. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.993052.

Here are five key roles of galactooligosaccharides:

  1. Bifidogenic effect: GOS selectively stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial Bifidobacterium species in the gut, contributing to a healthier gut microbiota composition and function. This increase in Bifidobacteria by GOS may be linked to the anxiolytic effect found in GOS supplementation.2Johnstone N, Milesi C, Burn O, van den Bogert B, Nauta A, Hart K, Sowden P, Burnet PWJ, Cohen Kadosh K. Anxiolytic effects of a galacto-oligosaccharides prebiotic in healthy females (18-25 years) with corresponding changes in gut bacterial composition. Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 15;11(1):8302. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-87865-w.3Schmidt K, Cowen PJ, Harmer CJ, Tzortzis G, Errington S, Burnet PW. Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 May;232(10):1793-801. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3810-0.
  2. Gut barrier function: GOS promotes the integrity of the gut barrier by enhancing mucin production. Mucin is a protective layer that prevents harmful substances from entering the bloodstream, reducing the risk of gut permeability issues.4Bhatia S, Prabhu PN, Benefiel AC, Miller MJ, Chow J, Davis SR, Gaskins HR. Galacto-oligosaccharides may directly enhance intestinal barrier function through the modulation of goblet cells. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Mar;59(3):566-73. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201400639.5Arnold JW, Roach J, Fabela S, Moorfield E, Ding S, Blue E, Dagher S, Magness S, Tamayo R, Bruno-Barcena JM, Azcarate-Peril MA. The pleiotropic effects of prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides on the aging gut. Microbiome. 2021 Feb 26;9(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s40168-021-01030-z.
  3. Gastrointestinal comfort: GOS has been associated with improved gastrointestinal symptoms, including reduced bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort, promoting overall digestive wellbeing.6Niittynen L, Kajander K, Korpela R. Galacto-oligosaccharides and bowel function. Scand J Food Nutr. 2007 Jun;51(2):62–6. doi: 10.1080/17482970701414596.
  4. Enhanced mineral absorption: Galactooligosaccharides have been shown to improve the absorption of essential minerals like calcium and magnesium, contributing to bone health.7Abrams SA, Griffin IJ, Hawthorne KM, Liang L, Gunn SK, Darlington G, Ellis KJ. A combination of prebiotic short- and long-chain inulin-type fructans enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralization in young adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Aug;82(2):471-6. doi: 10.1093/ajcn.82.2.471.8Griffin IJ, Davila PM, Abrams SA. Non-digestible oligosaccharides and calcium absorption in girls with adequate calcium intakes. Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S187-91. doi: 10.1079/BJNBJN/2002536.
  5. Immune Modulation: GOS support the development and function of immune cells, promoting healthy immune responses.9Vulevic J, Juric A, Walton GE, Claus SP, Tzortzis G, Toward RE, Gibson GR. Influence of galacto-oligosaccharide mixture (B-GOS) on gut microbiota, immune parameters and metabonomics in elderly persons. Br J Nutr. 2015 Aug 28;114(4):586-95. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515001889.10Ayechu-Muruzabal V, van de Kaa M, Mukherjee R, Garssen J, Stahl B, Pieters RJ, Van’t Land B, Kraneveld AD, Willemsen LEM. Modulation of the Epithelial-Immune Cell Crosstalk and Related Galectin Secretion by DP3-5 Galacto-Oligosaccharides and β-3’Galactosyllactose. Biomolecules. 2022 Feb 28;12(3):384. doi: 10.3390/biom12030384.

Which bacteria are involved in the metabolism of galactooligosaccharides (GOS)?

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are prebiotic fibres that selectively stimulate the growth and/or activity of beneficial gut bacteria. Particularly those in the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus genera are known to metabolise GOS.11Thongaram T, Hoeflinger JL, Chow J, Miller MJ. Prebiotic Galactooligosaccharide Metabolism by Probiotic Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. J Agric Food Chem. 2017 May 24;65(20):4184-4192. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b00851.12Macfarlane GT, Steed H, Macfarlane S. Bacterial metabolism and health-related effects of galacto-oligosaccharides and other prebiotics. J Appl Microbiol. 2008 Feb;104(2):305-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2007.03520.x.

How can you get more galactooligosaccharides (GOS) in your diet?

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are a type of carbohydrate that can’t be completely digested by human enzymes. Instead, they reach the colon, where they serve as food for beneficial gut bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. GOS can be found in human breast milk, which contributes to the development of a healthy gut microbiome in infants. While cow’s milk contains smaller amounts of GOS compared to human milk, it’s still a significant source. Because of its beneficial prebiotic effects, GOS is added to certain foods, including some breakfast cereals, bread, biscuits, and dairy products. You will also find GOS supplements.

Where to find your GOS score in the Chuckling Goat Gut Microbiome Test

You will find your galactooligosaccharides (GOS) score in the “Prebiotics” report in your Chuckling Goat Gut Microbiome Test results. Guidance on how to work with your GOS score will be featured in your personal action plan. Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified health provider if you have any questions about the impact of GOS on your health.

Synonyms: Galacto-oligo-saccharides, oligogalactosyllactose, trans-galactooligosaccharides (when produced by enzymatic action), β-galactooligosaccharides, B-GOS, α-GOS

Version and date: Version 1. 16th August 2023

Author: Dr Miguel Toribio-Mateas BSc (Hons) MSc DProf MRSB

Important disclaimer

The Chuckling Goat Gut Microbiome Handbook is an educational resource built to translate complex science into plain English. The information provided on this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Always check with your GP for interactions with medications/health conditions before changing your diet or starting to take food supplements.

References

  • 1
    Mei Z, Yuan J, Li D. Biological activity of galacto-oligosaccharides: A review. Front Microbiol. 2022 Sep 6;13:993052. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.993052.
  • 2
    Johnstone N, Milesi C, Burn O, van den Bogert B, Nauta A, Hart K, Sowden P, Burnet PWJ, Cohen Kadosh K. Anxiolytic effects of a galacto-oligosaccharides prebiotic in healthy females (18-25 years) with corresponding changes in gut bacterial composition. Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 15;11(1):8302. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-87865-w.
  • 3
    Schmidt K, Cowen PJ, Harmer CJ, Tzortzis G, Errington S, Burnet PW. Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 May;232(10):1793-801. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3810-0.
  • 4
    Bhatia S, Prabhu PN, Benefiel AC, Miller MJ, Chow J, Davis SR, Gaskins HR. Galacto-oligosaccharides may directly enhance intestinal barrier function through the modulation of goblet cells. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Mar;59(3):566-73. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201400639.
  • 5
    Arnold JW, Roach J, Fabela S, Moorfield E, Ding S, Blue E, Dagher S, Magness S, Tamayo R, Bruno-Barcena JM, Azcarate-Peril MA. The pleiotropic effects of prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides on the aging gut. Microbiome. 2021 Feb 26;9(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s40168-021-01030-z.
  • 6
    Niittynen L, Kajander K, Korpela R. Galacto-oligosaccharides and bowel function. Scand J Food Nutr. 2007 Jun;51(2):62–6. doi: 10.1080/17482970701414596.
  • 7
    Abrams SA, Griffin IJ, Hawthorne KM, Liang L, Gunn SK, Darlington G, Ellis KJ. A combination of prebiotic short- and long-chain inulin-type fructans enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralization in young adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Aug;82(2):471-6. doi: 10.1093/ajcn.82.2.471.
  • 8
    Griffin IJ, Davila PM, Abrams SA. Non-digestible oligosaccharides and calcium absorption in girls with adequate calcium intakes. Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S187-91. doi: 10.1079/BJNBJN/2002536.
  • 9
    Vulevic J, Juric A, Walton GE, Claus SP, Tzortzis G, Toward RE, Gibson GR. Influence of galacto-oligosaccharide mixture (B-GOS) on gut microbiota, immune parameters and metabonomics in elderly persons. Br J Nutr. 2015 Aug 28;114(4):586-95. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515001889.
  • 10
    Ayechu-Muruzabal V, van de Kaa M, Mukherjee R, Garssen J, Stahl B, Pieters RJ, Van’t Land B, Kraneveld AD, Willemsen LEM. Modulation of the Epithelial-Immune Cell Crosstalk and Related Galectin Secretion by DP3-5 Galacto-Oligosaccharides and β-3’Galactosyllactose. Biomolecules. 2022 Feb 28;12(3):384. doi: 10.3390/biom12030384.
  • 11
    Thongaram T, Hoeflinger JL, Chow J, Miller MJ. Prebiotic Galactooligosaccharide Metabolism by Probiotic Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. J Agric Food Chem. 2017 May 24;65(20):4184-4192. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b00851.
  • 12
    Macfarlane GT, Steed H, Macfarlane S. Bacterial metabolism and health-related effects of galacto-oligosaccharides and other prebiotics. J Appl Microbiol. 2008 Feb;104(2):305-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2007.03520.x.

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