To put it simply, inulin is a soluble fibre that can be found in a wide variety of plants.
Fructan is the same as inulin. It is a prebiotic, meaning it provides food for the beneficial bacteria already present in the digestive tract, much like other fructans.
Chains of fructose molecules are called fructans. This is because the molecules bind together in a way that is difficult or impossible for the small intestine to dismantle. Instead, they make their way to the lower intestine, where they nourish good bacteria.
Inulin and other prebiotics are broken down by gut bacteria into short-chain fatty acids that nourish colon cells and have other beneficial effects on the body.
Inulin-containing plants have been around for thousands of years, and some ancient humans consumed significantly more inulin than modern humans do.
Inulin is added by manufacturers to processed foods so that they can (3):
Improve the food supply by increasing the amount of prebiotics
Substitute healthier ingredients for foods high in fat
Substitute sugar-free alternatives
Change the way things taste or feel
Benefit digestive health and thereby increase the health benefits of the foods you eat.
So, what exactly is the origin of inulin?
Many plants contain inulin naturally, but it can also be synthesised for industrial purposes.
Derivatives from the Environment
About 36,000 plant species contain inulin; chicory roots are considered the best source due to their high concentration (3).
Inulin is found in varying concentrations in different plants.
Amounts of inulin in the following four foods per 3.5 ounces (oz), or 100 grammes (g):
Raw wheat kernels (0.5-1 g), raw barley (0.5-1 g), chicory root (35.7-47.6 g), garlic (9-16 g), Jerusalem artichoke (16-20 g), and raw onion pulp (1.1-7.5 g).
Inulin is also included in or sold as a dietary supplement for:
Oatmeal bars and other cereal snacks
Yogurt and other milk products
Several different types of manufactured inulin exist (5Reliable Source):
Extract of chicory root, also known as inulin.
To make high-performance (HP) inulin, companies remove the inulin molecules that are too short to provide any real benefit.
Fructooligosaccharides (also known as oligofructose) are dietary fibre supplements that are structurally similar to inulin.
Nutritional value of inulin
Inulin is taken for many different reasons. Constipation may be alleviated, weight loss is facilitated, and diabetes may be brought under control.
Benefits the digestive system.
A person’s resident bacteria and other microbes are collectively referred to as the gut microbiota. A wide variety of both beneficial and harmful bacteria coexist in this intricate community.
Maintaining a healthy gut and immune system requires a balance of beneficial bacteria
That’s why inulin is so useful; it encourages a healthy equilibrium. In fact, research shows that inulin can promote the development of good bacteria
Boosting the numbers of beneficial bacteria can have positive effects on one’s digestion, immunity, and overall health.
helps with bowel movements
Constipation is another condition that inulin may help with.
One study showed that inulin users had better bowel regularity and stool consistency
Adults aged 60 and up who took 15 grammes of inulin daily for four weeks experienced fewer episodes of constipation and improved digestion
Aids in Slimming Down
Researchers have found that inulin can aid weight loss in a number of studies
Prediabetic participants in a weight loss study were given either inulin or cellulose, another type of fibre, to consume daily for a period of 18 weeks. From week 9 to week 18, those who took inulin lost significantly more weight than those who did not
On the other hand, oligofructose and inulin have not been shown to reduce calorie intake in all studies of overweight or obese children (11Trusted Source, 12).
aids in the management of diabetes
Multiple studies have found that inulin may help those with diabetes and prediabetes better manage their blood sugar levels
However, the inulin variety may make a difference here. It’s possible that the HP variety, designed for maximum efficiency, is the best option. Prediabetes patients who took HP inulin saw less liver fat, according to one study
This is significant because a decrease in liver fat has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity and even reversal of type 2 diabetes in some cases
Females with type 2 diabetes were given 10 grammes of HP inulin daily in another study. The average reduction in their fasting blood sugar was 8.5%, and the average reduction in their haemoglobin A1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar control, was 10.4%.
Results from older studies using some other types of inulin are less consistent, even though HP inulin may benefit diabetes and prediabetes.
Better absorption of minerals, healthier bones
Evidence from animal studies suggests that inulin can enhance the body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium, leading to greater bone density.
Similar advantages have been found in studies with humans. A review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that inulin-type fructans may improve bone mineral density and calcium absorption.
In addition, there may be some other advantages
However, there is weaker evidence that inulin supplements can help with other conditions.
The benefits extend to the cardiovascular system, mineral absorption, prevention of colon cancer, and alleviation of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Possible heart-health benefits
Several markers for cardiovascular health may be enhanced by inulin.
Triglyceride and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels dropped significantly in women who took 10 grammes (g) of HP inulin daily for eight weeks.
Smaller drops in triglycerides and no changes in other markers were reported in some other studies.
Possible protection against colon cancer
According to some studies, inulin may have a protective effect on colonic cells. The fermentation of inulin into butyrate explains this effect. As a result, its impact on colon health has been the subject of a number of studies.
Precancerous colon growths were reduced in 88% of inulin-treated animals in one meta-analysis of 12 separate studies.
Precancerous cell changes and inflammation were reduced in rats fed inulin, according to another study.
An earlier human study found encouraging evidence that inulin reduced a cancer-friendly environment in the colon.
Though this has been linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer, more study is required to confirm this.
Maybe it’ll help with IBS
Prebiotics like inulin have shown promise in treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by altering the composition of gut flora and reducing inflammation there.
Small human studies have also shown improvement in ulcerative colitis symptoms and a decrease in inflammatory markers in Crohn’s disease.
While inulin has shown promise in animal studies, more research is needed before it can be recommended for use in the treatment of IBD.
Adverse effects and possible dangers
The various types of inulin have been extensively studied by scientists, and preliminary findings suggest that it is generally safe for people to consume in low doses.
However, those who are sensitive to FODMAPs may suffer severe reactions.
Chicory inulin may also aggravate ragweed allergy symptoms in susceptible individuals. Furthermore, in extremely rare cases, people with a food allergy to inulin may experience anaphylaxis.
The addition of inulin to the diet should be done gradually and in small amounts at first. Effects are more likely to manifest at higher doses. Assisting the body in making the transition requires a gradual increase in consumption over time.
Common adverse reactions include:
Discomfort in the belly
Symptoms of diarrhoea and/or loose stools
Take oligofructose, which is closely related to inulin, for instance; 10 g a day can lead to significant gas and bloating, according to research.
Inulin from chicory root is generally safe at higher doses, though some users reported mild stomach discomfort at 7.8 g daily.
What to take and how much
Most people can safely consume inulin in any form, but those with certain conditions may be more susceptible to its potential negative effects.
The addition of inulin to the diet should be done gradually and in small amounts at first. Incorporate inulin-rich foods into the diet gradually at first.
Some references recommend starting with no more than 2-3 g of inulin per day for at least 1-2 weeks. Gradually work your way up to 5-10 g daily.
Most inulin studies start with a daily dosage of 10-30 g and work up to higher doses over time.
With continued use, any potential adverse effects should diminish. The amounts listed here may not be suitable for everyone.
Is it advisable to take inulin?
There may be a number of advantages to inulin for your health. There’s hope that it could improve digestive health, aid in weight loss, and make diabetes easier to control.
However, more high-quality research is required before scientists can know the precise health effects of inulin in the human body.
Though it is generally considered safe, those with food intolerances or allergies should exercise caution.
Starting with a low dose of inulin and gradually increasing intake over a few weeks is recommended.
As a nutritional supplement, inulin can be found in many places.
Written by Franziska Spritzler and medically reviewed by Atli Arnarson, Ph.D.; revised on April 27, 2020
To what end is dietary fibre so important?
Various Fiber Forms
The Food Chain
Supplements containing fibre
When does it become too much?
Guidelines for boosting fibre intake
Roughage and dietary fibre both refer to the indigestible components of plant foods. The risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes can both be lowered by increasing one’s fibre intake.
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are the primary food sources of dietary fibre. Both soluble and insoluble fibres are beneficial to health in different ways:
Constipation can be avoided with the help of insoluble fibre, which does not dissolve in water and instead adds bulk to the stool.
In the digestive system, soluble fibre absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance. Some research suggests that soluble fibre can help reduce cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels stable.
This article discusses the various forms of fibre, their functions in the body, and the benefits of eating foods high in fibre.
Fiber’s many advantages
Soluble fibre can be found in oats, fruits, and nuts.
Nutritional experts agree that a diet high in dietary fibre is crucial for good health. It plays a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy digestive tract and warding off the onset of debilitating diseases.
The average American diet is deficient in dietary fibre. Some research suggests that only about 5% of the population actually consumes the recommended amounts. This means that the majority of people in the United States would benefit from increasing their daily fibre intake.
The benefits of a high-fiber diet include:
Cardiovascular disease prevention
The effects of dietary fibre on cardiovascular health, such as the prevention of cardiovascular disease and the lowering of blood pressure, have been the subject of numerous studies over the past several decades.
Research Synopsis, 2017
According to Reliable Source, people whose diets were high in fibre had a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a lower mortality rate from these diseases.
The authors postulate that fiber’s ability to lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “bad cholesterol,” may be responsible for its heart-protective effects.
enhanced digestive health
The digestive tract benefits greatly from a diet rich in fibre. Consuming a diet high in fibre can aid in the elimination of waste and the prevention of constipation. It promotes a balanced microbiome in the digestive tract.
A review published in 2015 found that consuming adequate amounts of fibre throughout the day can help you maintain regular bowel movements and lessen the amount of time waste spends in your intestines.
Positive effects of dietary fibre on gastrointestinal disorders were summarised in a review from 2009.
Ulcer of the Colon or Colorectal Disease
a hernia in the upper digestive tract
disorder of the oesophagus and stomach
disorder of the diverticulum
One’s risk of developing colorectal cancer may be lowered by increasing one’s fibre consumption, according to a review published in 2019.
Safeguard against diabetes
Increased dietary fibre may also help diabetics. Blood sugar levels are less likely to spike after meals when fibre is consumed.
Reflections on 2018
According to Reliable Source, those who ate more fibre, particularly cereal fibre, had a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Blood glucose levels were also reported to have decreased slightly in these people.
A high-fiber diet can help control hunger and satiety, making it easier to stick to a weight-loss plan. Foods high in fibre can aid dieters by making them feel full for longer.
A new study from 2019
According to a reliable study, people who up their fibre intake also tend to lose more weight and are more likely to stick to their calorie-restricted diets.
Various Fiber Sources
The term “fibre” refers to a group of nonstarch polysaccharides that includes cellulose, dextrins, inulin, lignin, chitins, pectins, beta glucans, waxes, and oligosaccharides.
There are two major categories of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble.
There is no need for people to differentiate between insoluble and soluble fibre because most foods high in fibre contain both types. They needn’t worry about particular types of fibre, though; they can simply increase their daily fibre intake.
Collagen that dissolves in water
When combined with water, soluble fibre forms a gel-like substance that helps keep the digestive tract regular. Later, in the large intestine, bacteria digest the gel. Calories can be obtained from soluble fibre.
Some advantages of soluble fibre include:
improving blood cholesterol levels by modulating dietary fat and cholesterol absorption
reducing the rate at which other carbohydrates are absorbed during digestion, thereby aiding in blood sugar control
Examples of high-quality soluble fibre sources are:
beans \sfruits \soats \snuts \svegetables
Weakly soluble fibre
Because it does not dissolve in water, insoluble fibre makes it through the digestive process largely unbroken. Zero calories are provided by this.
The bulk that insoluble fibre adds to the faeces makes it easier to get rid of waste more quickly. It also has the added benefit of warding off constipation.
Some examples of high-quality insoluble fibre sources are:
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Nuts and Whole Grains
Check out our centralised location for even more credible information on the subject of nutrition backed by scientific research.
The recommended daily allowance of dietary fibre in a diet of 2,000 calories, as established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is as follows:
Female adults should consume 25 grammes (g) per day.
For grown men, the recommended daily allowance is 38 grammes.
After age 50, the recommended daily intake of fibre decreases to 21 g for women and 30 g for men. The minimum daily requirement for women who are pregnant or nursing is 28 g.