A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology reports that protein glycomacropeptide (GMP) is in fact a prebiotic. It alters the gut microbiota in order to benefit the host. Feeding GMP to mice as a protein source reduced harmful gut bacteria associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and obesity, improved bone health and gastrointestinal function, and lowered inflammation.

Prebiotics And Gut Integrity

A study published online defines a prebiotic as ‘a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in composition and/or activity of the gastrointestinal microflora, that grants benefits to host well being and health’. Currently, only bifidogenic, non-digestible oligosaccharides, such as inulin, oligofructose (hydrolyzed form of inulin) and (trans) galactooligosaccharides fulfill the designated criteria to be classified as a prebiotic substance. The latter are mainly dietary fibers with strong evidence of positive influences on gut microbiota.

Apart from the primary function of maintaining and enhancing gut integrity, prebiotics have the following indirect functions, mediated by intestinal microbiota:

  • Prevention of constipation or diarrhea
  • Regulation of metabolism of intestinal microflora
  • Prevention of cancer
  • Improvement of lipid metabolism
  • Stimulation of mineral adsorption
  • Promotion of immunomodulatory properties

Latest Discovery: A New Prebiotic

Glycomacropeptide, or GMP, is a protein derived from whey. The latter is a liquid by-product obtained during the process of making cheese. Researchers found that GMP contains very small amounts of the amino acid phenylalanine, making it particularly useful as a protein substitute for those suffering from phenylketonuria – a metabolic disorder resulting in cognitive impairment due to elevated levels of phenylalanine.

Moreover, there is evidence to support that GMP supplementation improves gastrointestinal health, and protects the digestive tract from pathogens by triggering anti-inflammatory responses.

“Appetizing functional and medical foods can be made using GMP, and such foods may be beneficial in the management of phenylketonuria, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease”, the researchers wrote.