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To develop a quantitative equation [prebiotic index (PI)] to aid the analysis of prebiotic fermentation of commercially available and novel prebiotic carbohydrates in vitro, using previously published fermentation data.The PI equation is based on the changes in key bacterial groups during fermentation. The bacterial groups incorporated into this PI equation were bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, clostridia and bacteroides. The changes in these bacterial groups from previous studies were entered into the PI equation in order to determine a quantitative PI score. PI scores were than compared with the qualitative conclusions made in these publications. In general the PI scores agreed with the qualitative conclusions drawn and provided a quantitative measure.The PI allows the magnitude of prebiotic effects to be quantified rather than evaluations being solely qualitative.The PI equation may be of great use in quantifying prebiotic effects in vitro. It is expected that this will facilitate more rational food product development and the development of more potent prebiotics with activity at lower doses.