What is Inulin? Inulin fiber is a carbohydrate belonging to a class of compounds known as fructans. Because inulin fiber is resistant to digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract it reaches the large intestine essentially intact, where it is fermented by indigenous bacteria. Inulin fiber naturally occurs as a series of oligo- and polysaccharides with different chain lengths. Inulin fiber is not absorbed from the gastrointestinal system. For reasons of growing interest in the food and pet food industries, the short chain inulins have to be separated from their long chain analogues because their properties (digestibility, prebiotic activity and health promoting potential, caloric value, sweetening power, water binding capacity, etc.) differ substantially.
Inulin is indigestible by human enzymes ptyalin amylase, which are designed to digest starch. As a result, inulin passes through much of the digestive system intact. Inulin is a highly effective prebiotic, stimulating the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut. Inulin is used in low fat products because of its ability to give a creamy smooth texture to products. Inulin is a dietary fibre and is believed to activate beneficial good bacteria in the digestive tract. The activation of these bacteria is thought to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Inulin has a mildly sweet taste, but does not affect blood sugar levels and is recommended for diabetics. Inulin has been clinically proven to increase calcium absorption. The inherent calcium in dairy foods is now an even better source of this bone-building mineral when inulin is added because inulin improves the body’s uptake. Inulin is also used for diagnosis of kidney functions. People have used plants containing inulin to help relieve diabetes mellitus, a condition characterised by hyperglycemia and/or hyperinsulinemia. Inulin is injected into the bloodstream and, after an appropriate time delay, its concentration is checked for in the urine and bloodstream
Inulin benefits: Colon health – Increasing the levels of friendly bacteria in the gut, healthy volunteers consumed 10 grams daily of very long chain inulin prebiotic derived from globe artichoke for 3 weeks. Friendly bacteria called Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli were significantly higher in the inulin group in comparison to the placebo group. Costabile A, Kolida S, Klinder A, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study to establish the bifidogenic effect of a very-long-chain inulin extracted from globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) in healthy human subjects. Br J Nutr. Oct 2010.
Colon tumors: Inulin -type fructans (beta (2,1 )fructans) extracted from chicory roots (Cichorium intybus) are prebiotic food ingredients, which in the gut lumen are fermented to lactic acid and SCFA. Research in experimental animal models reveals that inulin-type fructans have anti cancer properties. A number of studies report the effects of inulin-type fructans on chemically induced pre-neoplastic lesions or tumors in the colon of rats and mice. Higher beneficial effects can be achieved by synbiotics (mixtures of probiotics and prebiotics), long-chain inulin -type fructans compared to short-chain derivatives. Inulin-type fructans reduce tumor incidence in mice and reduce growth and metastasizing properties of implanted tumor cells in mice. In human cells, inulin-derived fermentation products inhibit cell growth, modulate differentiation and reduce metastasis activities. In conclusion, evidence has been accumulated that shows that inulin-type fructans and corresponding fermentation products reduce the risks for colon tumor.
Cholesterol and lipids: A series of animal studies demonstrate that inulin-type fructans affect the metabolism of lipids primarily by decreasing triglyceridaemia because of a reduction in the number of plasma VLDL particles. The human data largely confirm the animal experiments. They demonstrate a reduction in trigycerides and a decrease in cholesterol. Inulin appears thus eligible for an enhanced function claim related to normalization of blood lipids. A study conducted in Spain indicates inulin could reduce cholesterol levels.