The human colon microbiota represents a very complex microbial ecosystem. Its importance for human health and well-being is of increasing interest, in particular through the use of probiotic and prebiotic strategies. This review discusses the degradation of complex polysaccharides and glycans of both dietary and endogenous origin. In particular, the importance of prebiotics, such as inulin-type fructans, arabinoxylan(s) (oligosaccharides), and human milk oligosaccharides for the growth and activity of specific microbial communities that are known to confer health benefits, i.e., the bifidobacteria and colon bacteria that produce butyrate and/or propionate, are discussed. Both the biochemical pathways as well as cross-feeding interactions are dealt with, as the latter represents crucial mechanisms to maintain a healthy balance of the colon microbiota.
Presented at the International Fibre Summit 2019 (https://internationalfibre.com/). Reproduced with permission from the organizers.