New animal science course to focus on prebiotics, probiotics

ANSC 2695/5695, Special Topics: Probiotics and Prebiotics, a three-credit class taught by animal science assistant professor Mary Anna Amalaradjou, is being offered this spring will cover the topics of prebiotics and probiotics, focusing on the different effects that each has on the body’s organ systems and how both are vital to the health of the human body. (brownpau/Flickr)

A new animal science class being offered this spring will cover the topics of prebiotics and probiotics, focusing on the different effects that each has on the body’s organ systems and how both are vital to the health of the human body.

ANSC 2695/5695, Special Topics: Probiotics and Prebiotics, a three-credit class taught by animal science assistant professor Mary Anna Amalaradjou, is offered to both undergraduate and graduate students of all majors – although it is likely most appropriate for students majoring in pathobiology, natural resources, economics and physiology and neurobiology.

“We talk about probiotics and prebiotics and why they are important to us, how they make us feel healthy, and how they help to fight infections,” Amalaradjou said. “We look into what to eat and what not to eat in regards to food products in the market, and we research the microorganisms that we get from these probiotics and see if we can use them to our advantage.”

Amalaradjou said that students study the effects of prebiotics and probiotics on the different body systems in not only humans, but also in other animals.

“We study their effects on the immune and respiration systems, the common cold, on the brain in fighting depression – and not only how they are observed in humans but also in large and small animals,” Amalaradjou said. “We study everything from frogs to snakes to large sea animals, even animals like lions and tigers.”

Amalaradjou said that one of her favorite aspects of the class is the final project when students pick a product and research it to see if everything that the company advertises about it is true.

“Students research everything about the product on the company’s website and then find scientific literature to see how many of those claims are actually reported,” Amalaradjou said. “They then present their projects to the class and students are able to learn to look at product labels before buying anything to see how much of the information is scientifically valid.”

Amalaradjou said that her students last spring, also really enjoyed the final class project the first time the class was offered. Graduate students tested the amount of organisms in probiotic supplements, and even probiotic ice cream, in lab to see if they actually had as many organisms in them as the labels say they did.

“Right now the class is set at 20 students because it’s in a small classroom,” Amalaradjou said. “There’s some sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students so I tried to figure out a middle ground so it’s not too heavy for one and too light for another.”

There are no pre-requisites for the class but Amalaradjou recommends that students take a microbiology class in preparation, although she said that she has had students who are with a non-biology background still do well.

The class is currently full for next semester, but Amalaradjou encourages any interested students to email her for a permission number.


Maggie McEvilly is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at maggie.mcevilly@uconn.edu.