Among Cactaceae, the genus Opuntia is widely known for the use of its biomass as cattle fodder and in human nutrition (e.g. species such as Opuntia ficus indica and Opuntia streptacantha). In particular, O. streptacantha (OS) produces abundant mucilage and, hence, the characterization of its properties and nutritional value is important. Accordingly, determination of the dietary fiber content of the OS mucilage and the fermentability of its hydrolysis products (oligosaccharides, OLI) is important for developing new uses of the crop as a functional food.
The values for insoluble dietary fiber and soluble dietary fiber in the mucilage were 204.6 and 371.6 g kg−1, respectively. After hydrolysis of OS mucilage with α‐amylase, three purified fractions of OLI were evaluated (OLI‐A, OLI‐B and OLI‐C). OLI (1% w/v) stimulated the growth of the commercial probiotic strains (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis) in vitro, showing behaviors similar to those of commercial inulin. The production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the fermentation broth was also determined. The final pH of the fermentation broth as well as the identification and concentrations of SCFA depended on the type of OLI and probiotic used.
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