The gut is full of bacteria. Specific bacteria may help regulate the amount of inflammation in the gut. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) used in this study are classified as probiotics, foodstuffs that do not benefit the host directly or nutritionally, but do so by acting as food for “friendly” bacteria. This essentially means they can increase the amount of helpful bacteria in the gut and increase the ability of specific cells to control inflammation.
This study was designed to assess if FOS are useful in the management of patients with Crohn’s disease. It was a well designed study carried out on 103 adults with active disease at four hospitals in London.
Patients were given either FOS or a placebo for 4 weeks. Neither the doctors nor the patients knew which the patient had been given at the time of the study (double-blind). The results showed that similar numbers of patients in both groups had an improvement in disease activity or achieved disease remission. There was also no difference in the change in markers of inflammation from beginning to end of the study. There were however significantly more side effects (abdominal pain and bloating) and more patients didn’t complete the study in the FOS group compared to the placebo group.
This study shows that FOS are no better than placebo in treating adults with active disease. It suggests that prebiotics are not helpful in treating Crohn’s disease and may cause more gut symptoms.