What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

Updated: May 21, 2020



The ‘P’ words have been thrown around a lot on social media, food marketing and news coverage (well maybe less since coronavirus has taken over the spotlight). So what’s so special about probiotics and prebiotics? Why have they suddenly made it to the lime light?

A major reason why these terms are becoming more and more mainstream is because of the increased scientific research surrounding them. There’s a growing body of research investigating the gut microbiome to determine if there are significant ways to alter it to improve human health. In order to determine a ‘cause and effect relationship’ that then can be used to guide recommendations for human health, all other factors and variables need to be accounted for that could potentially be causing the ‘effect’ or benefit. In short, the results need to conclude that the received probiotic or prebiotic was the variable causing the ‘effect.’ Make sense ? If not, (or if you are feeling like nerding out) check out more on the science behind gut health.

Right, so let’s get back to probiotics and prebiotics. According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), probiotics and prebiotics are defined as follows:

Probiotics - ‘microorganisms, that when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host.’

Prebiotics –‘a substrate that is selectively utilised by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.’

So in other words, probiotics are the