Last updated: August 10, 2021

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A prebiotic, or in the plural, prebiotics, is a food additive and achieves positive effects on gut bacteria. A prebiotic is not to be confused with a probiotic, but the two food additives complement each other, as a prebiotic is the energy supplier for a probiotic.

With our prebiotic test 2021 we want to give you the most useful tips and information about prebiotics. We also give you some interesting recommendations on prebiotic products that could help you. We hope you enjoy reading.




The most important facts

  • A prebiotic is an important food additive for gut bacteria to keep the intestinal tract healthy and active. A prebiotic is especially important for probiotics because they need prebiotics as an energy source.
  • Prebiotics are healthy for the intestinal flora and positively stimulate digestion. You can reach your daily requirement of prebiotics with a healthy and balanced diet.
  • In principle, anyone can take prebiotic products via food supplements, but you should pay attention to a certain quality. Especially in the beginning you have to be careful and not take too high doses.

The Best Prebiotic: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for a prebiotic

If you want to buy a prebiotic product, you should pay attention to different aspects, such as:

With the right choice for you, you can save a lot of money and nerves and you also ensure that you do not cause unnecessary damage to your body. Therefore, always look for high quality and, if necessary, ask the manufacturer to show you the certificates.

Dosage form

Prebiotic products are generally available in the following dosage forms:

  • Capsules are the most common and most splendid form of administration. Prebiotics in capsule form are easy to transport and usually have a neutral taste. In addition, the dosage of capsules is very simple for you.
  • After capsules,powders are the most common form of prebiotics. You can buy prebiotics in powder form quite cheaply and you can dose and mix them individually and in a variety of ways if you follow the consumption recommendations.
  • Tablets are one form of delivery, but are less common than capsules and powders. They have a long shelf life, are easy to store and easy to transport and take, but have high levels of additives and are less tolerable as a prebiotic than capsules or powder.
  • Liquid prebiotics are less common than the other forms mentioned above, but you can also buy prebiotics in liquid form. You can easily mix prebiotics in liquid form into your food, but the liquid form does not last very long compared to other variants.

Dosage

The dosage depends first of all on the total amount of the product. If the amount is larger, you can be a little more generous with the dosage. The dosage also depends on how highly concentrated the prebiotic product is, whether it is single or double concentrated.

If you have never taken a prebiotic supplement before, you should approach the right dose slowly and carefully at the beginning.

We recommend that you read the recommended dosage before taking your first prebiotic. If you have not taken a lot of prebiotic products before, you should be careful with the dosage at the beginning, so that your body gets used to the substance.

Bacteria strains and cultures

First of all, the quality of the bacterial strains must be ensured. Certificates and country of manufacture can be helpful in this regard. Next, it is important to know which prebiotic bacterial strains are present in the product. Most products have inulin as the main ingredient and are supplemented by many other prebiotic and probiotic bacteria (10, 15).

Other ingredients

Apart from prebiotics, other ingredients may be present in the products.

If asked, the manufacturer is obliged to give details about the ingredients.

Some products are additionally enriched with vitamins and minerals. If you want to use products that are as natural as possible, you should make sure that there are no preservatives or separating agents in the products.

Some low-quality products may contain harmful substances and you should focus on quality and control. Certificates and organic products are good indicators that there are no harmful substances in a prebiotic product.

Children and allergy sufferers

First of all, everyone can benefit from sufficient prebiotic intake, including children, allergy sufferers and pregnant women (1).

High quality prebiotic products are in most cases vegan.

In general, we recommend that prebiotic intake be managed through the diet if possible. You can also buy products designed for children.

Prebiotic products do not cause allergic reactions by themselves and sometimes even prevent the risk of allergies (2). However, some products contain soy or milk, so you should always check beforehand whether the prebiotic product is really gluten- and lactose-free.

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a prebiotic.

In the next sections, we will briefly inform you about the current state of knowledge and the researched effectiveness of prebiotics. We have compiled all the necessary information for you in the guide.

What is a prebiotic and how does it work?

A prebiotic is a non-digestible food ingredient that consists of carbohydrates in the form of dietary fibre. Typical prebiotics are inulin and oligofructose. A prebiotic serves as an energy supplier and provides positive effects such as growth or activity of intestinal bacteria (3).

A healthy and fit intestinal tract has a positive effect on the whole body.

Prebiotics have many different effects, which mainly take place in the large intestine and which also influence each other.

Effect 1: Nutrients for microorganisms

Prebiotics are the energy source for microorganisms in the intestinal tract to grow and become active . In addition, the strengthening of good microorganisms ensures that harmful microorganisms are fought (4).

Effect 2: Improvement of the intestinal flora

Active and growing microorganisms such as probiotics strengthen the intestinal flora in a health-promoting way, which has positive effects on the intestine and also on the entire body (5).

Prebiotics help you to improve your intestinal flora and your digestion. (Image source: 123rf / Elvira Koneva)

Effect 3: Stimulation of digestion

Prebiotics also indirectly stimulate digestion. In addition to many health-promoting effects, a diet rich in fibre also ensures longer satiety (6).

What are the differences between prebiotics and probiotics?

A prebiotic is a fairly unknown food ingredient compared to a probiotic, yet both prebiotics and probiotics are important players in the intestinal flora. While the latter contain vital microorganisms that have positive effects on the gut, prebiotics are the food source of gut bacteria (7).

  • Prebiotics are not digested by the body and serve as an energy source for microorganisms.
  • Probiotics are living bacteria, occur naturally in the gut and directly challenge the gut flora.
  • Symbiotics are a composition of prebiotics and probiotics with all their effects in the intestine.

At first glance, the differences between a prebiotic and a probiotic are difficult to see, but we think it is important to know these differences. Both have their area of action in the intestine and complement each other. Incidentally, a mixture of the two is called a symbiotic or, in the plural, symbiotics.

When and for whom does it make sense to take a prebiotic?

In general, we recommend that you take a prebiotic every day, if possible through a balanced and healthy diet (8). In principle, however, there is nothing to be said against taking high-quality prebiotic products to cover your needs.

Prebiotic food supplements can help to strengthen the good intestinal bacteria during treatment with antibiotics. However, you should discuss taking them with your doctor beforehand (5).

Taking the right, healthy amount of prebiotics has some health benefits on the intestinal tract and also on the whole body (7).

However, we would advise you to only use prebiotic products if you really can't meet your daily requirements through your diet. You should also pay attention to the correct dosage, as an overdose can have consequences such as flatulence or diarrhoea (9).

Which plant parts are used for products with prebiotics?

The most commonly used prebiotic for prebiotic products is inulin, which is especially common in salsify, Jerusalem artichoke or chicory. The reason is simple, as intestinal bacteria prefer to eat inulin (10, 15). But other prebiotics such as pectins or resistant starch are also more commonly seen ingredients for prebiotic products (11).

Foods where prebiotics are abundant are often used for bacterial strains and cultures in prebiotic products:

  • Inulin - Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, salsify
  • Pectins - apples, linseed, psyllium husks
  • resistant starch - cooled potatoes, rice

In which products are prebiotics present?

In general, foods with a lot of dietary fibre also contain a lot of prebiotics (12). Especially fresh plant foods are safe to eat in this respect.

Präbiotikum-1

With a healthy and balanced diet that includes many fresh, fibre-rich fruits and vegetables, you can reach your required daily amount without additional prebiotic supplements.
(Image source: unsplash / Alexander Schimmeck)

Foods with particularly valuable prebiotics include inulin things like chicory, salsify and Jerusalem artichokes, and pectin foods like apples, psyllium husks and flaxseed. Rice and cooled potatoes are also good sources of prebiotics for you, as they contain lots of resistant starch.

How much do prebiotic products cost?

The price of a prebiotic product depends to a large extent on the dosage form and the quality. Commercial products of good quality can be had for 20 euros or more. Organic products are usually a little more expensive, but they are of a higher quality and have been tested. Compared to other variants, capsules are significantly more expensive per kilogram.

Dosage form price range
Capsules from 200 euros per kilogram
Powder from 18-20 euros per kilogram
Liquid from 20 euros per litre

What types of prebiotics are there?

Most industrially produced prebiotic products consist of inulin in combination with other bacterial cultures. Prebiotics are most commonly found as dietary supplements in capsules or powders.

Präbiotikum in Kapselform

Prebiotics in capsule form

Prebiotics in capsule form are the most common prebiotic product. They are very popular because they are easy and uncomplicated to take, but they are also somewhat more expensive than other types of administration (13).

Advantages
  • Very widely used dosage form
  • Capsule shell secures bacterial cultures
  • Resistant to gastric acid
Disadvantages
  • Swallowing capsules can be uncomfortable
  • May contain fillers or animal substances
  • More expensive than other dosage forms
Präbiotikum in Pulverform

Prebiotics in powder form

Apart from the capsule form, the powder form is the most common form of administration for prebiotic products. An individual dosage depending on the condition and person is easily possible with the powder form.

Advantages
  • Mixing with food
  • Slow approach through individual dosages
  • Fewer fillers
  • Also suitable for children
Disadvantages
  • Stomach acid resistance not always given
  • More complex intake
  • Not neutral in taste

How should a prebiotic be dosed?

When dosing, you must be careful not to take too much and get flatulence or diarrhoea (9).

In addition, you should only take small amounts of prebiotics at the beginning, if you have only taken a few prebiotics in your diet before, to allow your body time to get used to them.

Präbiotikum-2

The German Nutrition Society recommends a maximum of 30 mg of dietary fibre per day. With a normal, healthy diet, you should therefore be careful with prebiotic supplements
(Image source: unsplash/ Christina Victoria Craft)

What are the alternatives to a prebiotic?

There are no direct alternatives to a prebiotic, as they are the energy source for gut bacteria. However, you can easily meet your daily requirement of prebiotics with a fibre-rich, balanced diet. You should also avoid negative stress, as it has a negative effect on your intestinal flora (14).

Image source: Barbone / 123rf

References (15)

1. Taking a prebiotic approach to early immunomodulation for allergy prevention
Source

2. Bugging allergy; role of pre-, pro- and synbiotics in allergy prevention
Source

3. Prebiotic effects: metabolic and health benefits
Source

4. Role of inulin as prebiotics on inflammatory bowel disease
Source

5. Probiotics and prebiotics in intestinal health and disease: from biology to the clinic
Source

6. Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota
Source

7. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health
Source

8. Dietary fibre as prebiotics in nutrition
Source

9. Prebiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and other functional bowel disorders in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
Source

10. Prebiotic inulin-type fructans induce specific changes in the human gut microbiota
Source

11. The potential of resistant starch as a prebiotic
Source

12. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits
Source

13. Probiotics, prebiotics, and microencapsulation: A review
Source

14. Targeting the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Prebiotics Have Anxiolytic and Antidepressant-like Effects and Reverse the Impact of Chronic Stress in Mice
Source

15. Inulin: Properties, health benefits and food applications
Source

Why you can trust me?

Wissenschaftliche Studie
Taking a prebiotic approach to early immunomodulation for allergy prevention
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Wissenschaftliche Studie
Bugging allergy; role of pre-, pro- and synbiotics in allergy prevention
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Prebiotic effects: metabolic and health benefits
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Wissenschaftliche Studie
Role of inulin as prebiotics on inflammatory bowel disease
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Wissenschaftliche Studie
Probiotics and prebiotics in intestinal health and disease: from biology to the clinic
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Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota
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Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health
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Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Dietary fibre as prebiotics in nutrition
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Wissenschaftliche Studie
Prebiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and other functional bowel disorders in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Prebiotic inulin-type fructans induce specific changes in the human gut microbiota
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
The potential of resistant starch as a prebiotic
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Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Probiotics, prebiotics, and microencapsulation: A review
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Targeting the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Prebiotics Have Anxiolytic and Antidepressant-like Effects and Reverse the Impact of Chronic Stress in Mice
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Inulin: Properties, health benefits and food applications
Go to source
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