Difference Between Prebiotic and Probiotic

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Prebiotic and Probiotic

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Prebiotics and probiotics are now trending topics in nutrition. Although they sound identical, the two have different effects on your health. Prebiotics are the food for the bacteria, whereas probiotics are the beneficial bacteria. Probiotics and prebiotics are likely to be confused often by the majority of people. It's important to remember that they both affect our gut health in distinct ways. Only a small portion of the billions of gut bacteria support nutrition absorption, digestion, and immunity.

Now, let’s understand the differences between prebiotic and probiotic in detail.

Prebiotic vs Probiotic

Prebiotics and probiotics differ primarily in that prebiotics contain a complex carbohydrate known as fiber while probiotics contain actual living organisms.

Plant fibers that have undergone genetic modification are known as prebiotics. They function as fertilizers, promoting the growth of advantageous microbes in the stomach. Many different fruits and vegetables contain them, especially those that are abundant in complex carbohydrates like fiber and resistant starch. These carbohydrates pass through the digestive tract by providing food for bacteria and other germs because they cannot be digested by the human body. Probiotics are distinct from other dietary supplements in that they include living organisms, typically specific types of bacteria that directly support the number of beneficial bacteria in our gut. A bacteria cannot be called a probiotic unless its positive effects on health have been shown.

Difference Between Prebiotic and Probiotic in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Prebiotic Probiotic
Meaning It contains specialized plant fiber that serves as food for good bacteria. It has authentic bacteria strains that change the population of wholesome bacteria.
Helpfulness It helps in lowering the risk of cancer, improving calcium absorption, etc. It helps in decreasing allergies, slowing the progression of chronic disorders, etc.
Component Its made up of a complex carbohydrate called fiber. It’s composed of actual organisms.
Consumption Prebiotics cannot be broken down by our digestive system. Probiotics can sustain in the gut.
To be Found Its found in beans, asparagus, etc. It’s found in yogurt.

What is a Prebiotic?

Prebiotics are substances found in food that stimulate the development or activity of healthy bacteria and fungus.  The most typical instance is in the digestive system, where prebiotics can change the makeup of the bacteria in the gut microbiome.

Dietary prebiotics is typically nondigestible fiber substances that pass through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract undigested. By serving as substrates for these substances, they encourage the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria in the colon. Marcel Roberfroid was initially recognized and named in 1995. They may be subject to regulatory review as food additives for the health claims made for marketing purposes, depending on the jurisdiction. Oat beta-glucan and chicory root inulin are two common prebiotics used in food production.

Since its first description in 1995, prebiotics and the food elements that can be categorized under this heading have changed. The word "prebiotics" originally referred to non-digestible food components that benefited the host by selectively stimulating a certain type of bacteria in the colon. Additional analysis has revealed that the scientific validity of selective stimulation has not been established.

The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) defined prebiotics as a substrate that a host microorganism uses specifically to provide a health benefit in 2016 as a result of research demonstrating that prebiotics may affect microorganisms outside of the colon. A prebiotic is a substance or component that is used in the microbiota to produce a health or performance advantage, according to the definition given by The Global Prebiotic Association (GPA) in 2021.

Prebiotic substances also need to conform to the following standards:

  • Non-digestible and resistant to stomach acid and digestive enzymes in the human gastrointestinal tract
  • Fermented by microorganisms on or in the body
  • Promotes the growth and activity of good bacteria

Consuming prebiotics may therefore benefit the host's health. According to the preceding categorizations, resistant starch and oligosaccharides, which are carbohydrate molecules originating from plants, are the main sources of prebiotics that have been found. Specific oligosaccharide sources that have been shown to promote the activity and expansion of advantageous bacterial colonies in the gut include fructans and galactans. Galatians are made up of galactooligosaccharides, whereas fructans are made up of fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulins. It has been demonstrated that resistant starch alters the gut bacterial composition and enhances biomarkers for a variety of diseases. Prebiotics include pectin, beta-glucans, and xylooligosaccharides, among other dietary fibers.

Prebiotics and dietary fiber are distinguished by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the body that oversees product labeling, which also notes that "a cause and effect relationship has still not been founded between the consumption of the food constituents that are the topic of the health claims and a positive physiological effect related to growing numbers of the gastrointestinal microbiota." Since dietary fiber has no association with health benefits, individual substances cannot be labeled as prebiotics under EFSA regulations.

When the prebiotic idea was first proposed in 1995, Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus were primarily the focus of attention.  The current prebiotic targets have increased to include a wider variety of microorganisms thanks to improved mechanistic methodologies in recent years, including Roseburia spp., Eubacterium spp., Akkermansia spp., Christensenella spp., Propionibacterium spp., and Faecalibacterium spp.

These bacteria have been emphasized as essential probiotics and advantageous gut flora because they may improve digestion (including but not limited to improved mineral absorption) and the efficiency and inherent power of the immune system in the host. It has been demonstrated that prebiotic specificity varies between Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus and that both can preferentially ferment prebiotic fiber dependent on the enzymes present in the bacterial community. In this way, while Bifidobacteria show specificity for inulin, fructooligosaccharides, xylooligosaccharides, and galactooligosaccharides, Lactobacilli prefer inulin and fructooligosaccharides. Studies have also demonstrated that prebiotics can limit the growth of harmful and potentially pathogenic microbes in the gut, such as clostridia, in addition to promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Prebiotics are mostly utilized by helpful bacteria in the colon through fermentation. Bacterial communities such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus use saccharolytic metabolism to digest substrates. Both genes encoding for carbohydrates-modifying enzymes and proteins that take up carbohydrates are abundant in the bifidobacterial genome. These genes' existence suggests that prebiotics, or oligosaccharides originating from plants, can be fermented and metabolized through particular metabolic pathways seen in bifidobacteria. These Bifidobacteria pathways ultimately result in the production of short-chain fatty acids, which play a variety of physiological roles in bodily processes.

For a source to be categorized as a prebiotic, it must be demonstrated that it benefits the host. Fermentable sugars made from xylans and fructans are one well-known type of prebiotic. Since 4 to 10 percent of the starch in mixed diets has been found to enter the large intestine, resistant starch from starchy foods is another well-documented prebiotic that has historically been the main source of prebiotics in the diet. According to one study, people eating a traditional diet in Africa took in 38 grams of resistant starch per day.

What is a Probiotic?

Live microorganisms known as probiotics are marketed with the promise that, when ingested, they will improve or restore the flora in the stomach, hence promoting health benefits. Probiotics are usually considered safe to eat, but sometimes, they may result in bacterial-host interactions and unwanted side effects. Probiotics may be helpful for some illnesses, according to some data, however many of their alleged health advantages are not well supported.

A particular strain of bacillus found in Bulgarian yogurt, termed Lactobacillus bulgaricus, was the first probiotic to be identified. Bulgarian physician and microbiologist Stamen Grigorov discovered the finding in 1905. The contemporary notion is typically credited to Russian Nobel winner Élie Metchnikoff, who proposed in 1907 that Bulgarian peasants who consumed yogurt lived longer.

The necessity for tougher guidelines for the scientific validation of the purported advantages provided by microorganisms marketed as probiotics has arisen as a result of the probiotics market's expansion. Although there are many benefits touted for utilizing consumer probiotic products, such as easing constipation, boosting immune function, lowering gastrointestinal discomfort, or preventing the common cold, these claims are not backed by research.

Live helpful bacteria and/or yeasts that are already present in your body are combined to form probiotics. Typically, bacteria have a negative notion around them that they make us sick. However, your body constantly contains two types of bacteria: good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria included in probiotics aid in maintaining your body's health and functionality.

Now, one can benefit from this beneficial bacteria in numerous ways, including by fighting off harmful bacteria when there are too many of them and making you feel better.

Probiotics are a component of your microbiome, a bigger picture involving microbes and your body.

Imagine your microbiome as a diverse community of creatures that collaborate to maintain your body's health, like a forest. The bacteria that make up this community are known as such. Your body contains trillions of microorganisms. These microbes include a variety of:

  • Bacteria.
  • Fungi (including yeasts).
  • Viruses.
  • Protozoa.

Everybody has a different microbiome. Even twins have unique microbial cells. No two humans are alike.

A bacterium must possess several qualities to be referred to as a probiotic. To name a few, a microbiome should:

  • Be able to isolate itself from people.
  • Following consumption, persist in your intestine (being eaten).
  • Have a tangible advantage for a person.
  • Be consumed safely.

You have various places in and on your body that contain good microorganisms, even though the region is most frequently associated with beneficial microbes in your gut (mostly the large intestines). These places, including yours, are in communication with the "outside world."

  • Gut.
  • Mouth
  • Vagina
  • Urinary system.
  • Skin
  • Lungs.

Maintaining a healthy equilibrium in your body is the primary function of probiotics, often known as beneficial bacteria. Imagine doing it while maintaining bodily neutrality. Bad bacteria enter your body and multiply while you are ill. Your body becomes out of balance as a result. You feel better because the good bacteria are working to fend off the bad bacteria and restore the balance in your body.

Healthy bacteria help your immune system work properly and reduce inflammation, which keeps you healthy. Some varieties of beneficial bacteria can also:

  • Aiding in food digestion.
  • Avoid being ill by preventing harmful bacteria from spreading out of control.
  • Produce vitamins
  • Support the gut's lining cells to stop harmful germs from entering the blood that you may have ingested through food or drink.
  • Drug breakdown and absorption

Your body constantly engages in this balancing act on its own. To achieve this, you don't need to take probiotic pills. Simply said, your body naturally contains good bacteria. Everyday consumption of a fiber-rich, well-balanced diet contributes to maintaining healthy levels of beneficial bacteria.

Two particular forms of bacteria are frequently seen as probiotics in stores, even though many different types of bacteria might be termed probiotics. These consist of:

  • Lactobacillus
  • Bifidobacterium

Good yeast is another component of probiotics. Probiotics typically contain one of the following types of yeast:

  • Saccharomyces boulardii.

Main Differences Between Prebiotic and Probiotic In Points

  • While probiotics are genuine bacterium variations that alter the demography of healthy bacteria in our digestive tract, prebiotics is specialized plant fibers that act as sustenance for healthy bacteria and encourage the development of the beneficial bacteria that currently exist.
  • Prebiotics benefit health by lowering the risk or progression of chronic diseases, managing gastrointestinal disorders, reducing allergies, and other factors, whereas probiotics benefit health by lowering the risk or advancement of chronic diseases, strengthening the body's immune system, enhancing calcium absorption, and so forth.
  • A common component of prebiotic supplements is a complex carbohydrate, such as fiber. Contrarily, probiotic pills include real organisms. A single strain of bacteria or a variety of bacteria may be present in a single dosage.
  • Prebiotics can pass through the digestive system without being broken down by our digestive system. Probiotics, on the other hand, maintain in the gut and supply us with the same benefits as our natural bacteria do.
  • Barley, asparagus, beans, apples, and bananas are examples of prebiotic foods, whilst probiotic foods include kombucha, yogurt, miso, kefir, and kimchi, among others.


Hence, now we can say that we have gathered enough knowledge about prebiotics and probiotics.


  • Prebiotic (nutrition). (n.d.). Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prebiotic_(nutrition)
  • Probiotic. (n.d.). Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probiotic
  • Probiotics. (n.d.). Retrieved from Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics


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"Difference Between Prebiotic and Probiotic." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 09 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-prebiotic-and-probiotic-840>.

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