Oligosaccharides are complex carbohydrates consisting of 3 to 10 simple sugar units linked together by glycosidic bonds. They are naturally present in many plant-based foods, including legumes, onions, garlic, leeks, and asparagus.
Oligosaccharides can also be produced through enzymatic or chemical processes and are often added to protein powders as prebiotic fibers to support gut health. They are not digested in the small intestine and instead travel to the colon where they are fermented by the gut microbiota. This fermentation produces short-chain fatty acids which can provide energy to the colonocytes, improve gut motility, and modulate the immune system.
Some common oligosaccharides found in protein powders include fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). While oligosaccharides are generally considered safe, they may cause some gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating and flatulence in some individuals who are sensitive to them. It's also worth noting that some protein powders may contain high levels of oligosaccharides, so it's important to follow recommended serving sizes to avoid potential digestive issues.