Polylactose Exhibits Prebiotic Activity and Reduces Adiposity and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Rats Fed a High-Fat Diet

Breann E. Abernathy, Tonya C. Schoenfuss, Allison S. Bailey, Daniel D. Gallaher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Prebiotic dietary fibers change the intestinal microbiome favorably and provide a health benefit to the host. OBJECTIVES: Polylactose is a novel fiber, synthesized by extrusion of lactose. We evaluated its prebiotic activity by determining its fermentability, effect on the microbiota, and effects on adiposity and liver lipids in a diet-induced obesity animal model. METHODS: Male Wistar rats (4-5 wk old) were fed normal-fat (NF, 25% fat energy) or high-fat (HF, 51% fat energy) diets containing different fibers (6% fiber of interest and 3% cellulose, by weight), including cellulose (NFC and HFC, negative and positive controls, respectively), polylactose (HFPL), lactose matched to residual lactose in the HFPL diet, and 2 established prebiotic fibers: polydextrose (HFPD) and fructooligosaccharide (HFFOS). After 10 wk of feeding, organs were harvested and cecal contents collected. RESULTS: HFPL animals had greater cecum weight (3 times greater than HFC) and lower cecal pH (∼1 pH unit lower than HFC) than all other groups, suggesting that polylactose is more fermentable than other prebiotic fibers (HFPD, HFFOS; P < 0.05). HFPL animals also had increased taxonomic abundance of the probiotic species Bifidobacterium in the cecum relative to all other groups (P < 0.05). Epididymal fat pad weight was significantly decreased in the HFPL group (29% decrease compared with HFC) compared with all other HF groups (P < 0.05) and did not differ from the NFC group. Liver lipids and cholesterol were reduced in HFPL animals when compared with HFC animals (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Polylactose is a fermentable fiber that elicits a beneficial change in the gut microbiota as well as reducing adiposity in rats fed HF diets. These effects of polylactose were greater than those of 2 established prebiotics, fructooligosaccharide and polydextrose, suggesting that polylactose is a potent prebiotic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-360
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition.


  • adiposity
  • fatty liver
  • fermentation
  • liver cholesterol
  • microbiota
  • prebiotic
  • rat

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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