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Galactooligosaccharides
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Beta-galactosidase, beta-galactosidase, Bi2muno®, Bi2muno®, Bi2tos®, Bi2tos®, bifidogenic, Bimuno®, Bitos®, Elix'or®, galacto-oligosaccharide, galactosyl lactose, oligogalactose, oligogalactosyl lactose, prebiotic, probiotic, synbiotic, transgalacto-oligosaccharides (TOS), transgalactooligosaccharides, Vivinal®GOS.
  • Note: The galactooligosaccharides designed for human use are marketed by Clasado, Inc. (UK) under the brand name Bi2muno®, while Bi2tos® is designed for animal use.

Background

  • Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are short chains of variable length made up of the sugars galactose and glucose. While GOS are poorly digested by human enzymes, there are gut bacteria that are able to break down GOS. GOS thus serve as an energy source for beneficial bacteria that live in the human intestine. GOS are considered prebiotics, which are defined as food compounds that are indigestible by humans but are digestible by intestinal bacteria. Other indigestible oligosaccharides with prebiotic effects include fiber gums, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), inulins, isomalto-oligosaccharides, lactilol, lactosucrose, lactulose, pyrodextrins, soy oligosaccharides, and xylooligosaccharides.
  • Prebiotics differ from probiotics. Probiotics are bacteria (such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) often taken as supplements to promote the establishment of beneficial gut bacteria.
  • GOS have numerous purported beneficial effects. GOS are believed to mimic the oligosaccharides found naturally in human breast milk and may contribute to the known health benefits of breastfeeding. Infant formulas in Europe have been supplemented with GOS since 2001, and numerous studies support the safety and prebiotic effects of GOS supplementation in infants.
  • Results of other studies suggest that GOS may have beneficial effects for the immune system, in treating constipation, in preventing atopic dermatitis, and in maintaining bone density. Although there is preliminary evidence supporting these potential benefits, more studies are needed.

Evidence

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Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

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Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.