Microbiota-accessible pectic poly- and oligosaccharides in gut health
Diverse human intestinal microbiota are regarded as a prerequisite for a healthy intestine. Commercial prebiotic products have a limited ability to provide microbial diversity in the human gut, because they mostly comprise oligomers of the same monosaccharide residues and a small fraction of them can reach the distal colon. Therefore, the demand for diverse prebiotic ingredients and dietary fibers with improved functional properties is increasing tremendously. The main sources of carbohydrates in our diet are plant-derived polysaccharides, which are consumed by the bacteria present in the intestine. Among these, pectin-derived poly- and oligosaccharides serve as the best alternative, as they are resistant to human gastric juice and are fermented slowly in the large intestine to impart a prebiotic effect. The main components of pectin are polygalacturonic acids in association with neutral polysaccharides such as arabinan, arabinogalactan, and galactan. The present review deals with the health-related functional properties of pectic poly- and oligosaccharides and their applications in the food industry. Different mechanisms involved in the hydrolysis of these carbohydrates by the intestinal bacteria and in maintaining the microbial diversity of the intestine are also discussed. It also emphasizes the current methods for the production and purification of different pectins and their oligosaccharides.