Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides: What the science says

Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides: What the science says

The so-called Fos, fructo-oligosaccharides, and inulin are present in nature in various types of foods such as legumes and cereals and play an important role in our daily diet, especially in the intestines. Let’s find out where it is abundant and the benefits it provides.

The term Fructo-oligosaccharides (or Fos) refers to an exact type of fructans, or carbohydrates formed from repeating fructose molecules. These are polysaccharide chains containing a few units obtained through the hydrolysis of inulin (which in turn is a polysaccharide of plant origin, from which it originates).

Fos are very important to our diet and have various kinds of benefits for the body: here are their properties in more detail.

What are fructans?

Before going into the details of the properties of Fos, let us see what are the constituents of fructans.

while the Inulin They are long-chain fructans, and those with a short chain are known specifically as fructo-oligosaccharides. Let’s take a look at inulin first.

What is inulin and what kind of association does it have with Fos

When we talk about these substances, we cannot help but refer to insulin, from which other Fos are derived.

Inulin is a fact Soluble fiber is found in an infinite number of plant speciesI (there are at least 36,000) and consists of several fructose molecules linked to each other through certain links β-glycosides (2-1).

Discovered by scientists in 1804, it has a special structure and is Resistant to the action of human digestive enzymes. That is why it is called b Indigestible carbohydrates by the man who tends to access to the last tract of the digestive system practically intact, It is only fermented by coliform bacteria.

There are two main types of insulin that can be taken with food or supplements: The first type is called insulin High performance inulin It is the one that contains more than 10 fructose molecules bound together; When instead we find chains with less than 10 fructose molecules, we are talking strictly about Fos.

The following are the main foods containing inulin with an indication of the percentage of the substance on fresh weight:

  • agave (lobe); 7 – 10%
  • Leek (bulb): 3-10%
  • Onions: 2-6%
  • Garlic (onion): 9 – 16%
  • Burdock (root): 3.5 – 4%
  • Asparagus vulgaris (tuber): 10-15%
  • Shatavari (tuber): 10 – 15%
  • Kama (bulb): 12-22%
  • Dandelion (root): 15-20%
  • Artichoke (leaves/heart): 3 – 10%
  • Dahlia (tuber): 15-20%
  • Topinambur (tuber): 14-19%
  • Barley (seed): 0.5 – 1.5%
  • Banana (tuber): 0.3 – 0.7%
  • Rye (seed): 0.5 – 1.0%
  • Yacon (root): 3 – 19%
  • Dandelion (leaves): 12 – 15%

Where are these substances found in food?

At least for now, the European Food Safety Authority (or the European Food Safety Authority) has not yet approved food labels that contain specific claims about the presence of fructo-oligosaccharides in products available on the food market.

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In any case, there are many products (especially plant-based ones) that can boast the presence of these substances in a significant amount.

Fos can therefore be taken while eating (among others): soybeans, bananas, asparagus, leeks, beets, artichokes, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, yacon root, pistachios, various cereals and bakery products of barley, spelled, rye and wheat . The choice, as you can easily see, is wide.

Generally, these are the items that go into the food industry It has long been used to flavor foods to improve their taste as well as their texture and density. Being sweet and low in calories, these are suitable for those who want to stay on a diet, using sweeteners instead of regular white sugar.

Fos use

According to the indicators of the Ministry of Health, these substances can be included in the list Other nutrients and other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect.

Their uses and properties are varied. In particular, they have the ability to stimulate the growth of healthy bacterial flora, which is also a very important component of our immune system (so we can technically talk about function Prebiotic).

Moreover, at the level of our intestines, Fos is useful for restoring the normal regularity of the intestinal flora (especially after taking antibiotic medications), it also promotes digestion in case of indigestion (i.e. pain in the upper abdomen after meals), helps maintain Normal blood cholesterol levels and, according to some scientists, may also be able to counteract the appearance of certain intestinal pathogens (among them: Shigella, staphylococcus, candida, salmonella or again clostridia).

Therefore, in view of their properties, they prove to be precious elements that must be introduced into the body to prevent many ailments and diseases: this is the case Irritable bowel syndromefollower Type 2 diabetesDiarrhea, digestive disorders, obesity and some heart diseases.

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There are many studies that have proven, supported by an extensive literature of clinical trials, the essential role that these substances play in our gut in a certain way.

after his appointment, Fos reaches the cecum and colon where it is able to stimulate the normal growth of some bifidobacteria Benefits like longum, adolescents and infants.

Thanks to the support of the polysaccharides contained in them, these bifidobacteria multiply and grow, giving life Short chain organic acids (such as lactic acid, acetic acid, or formic acid) that are able to prevent the spread of pathogenic elements.

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Speaking of its possible anti-cancer function, it should be noted that this property may seem to be related above all to an increase in the concentration of substances such asButyric acid (but also from other fatty acids) that can have an anti-mucus effect. In this way, these fats prevent the inner mucous membranes from being damaged by potentially irritating substances.

On the issue of cholesterol, maintaining normal levels of the “good” goes a long way towards prevention. future cardiovascular complications.

The coup against osteoporosis: the question is still open

Also of note is the potential ability of these substances to protect our bones. In fact, the formation of short-chain fatty acids after consuming Fos appears to have a beneficial effect on certain degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, or the progressive deterioration of our skeleton.

Research into the merits of this matter is still ongoing and the scientific community is still uncertain, but it would seem The presence of certain fatty acids helps to improve the levels of intake of minerals such as magnesium and calciumfrom the basics Bone hardness.

Recommended doses and any contraindications

Experts advise not to overdo it with these substances, but rather encourage you to take the amount included Between 2 and 10 grams Every day, which is well tolerated by all age groups (including children, pregnant women, and even the elderly).

In any case, as expected, it is advisable not to overdo it so as not to risk inconvenience: excesses can in fact lead to various kinds of ailments, such as swelling of the intestine, meteorism, diarrhea or painful spasms. Basically, eating too much can be counterproductive.

Obviously, if hypersensitivity to inulin or other Fos emerges from specific analyses, it will be important to refrain from (or limit as much as possible) their consumption.

For the rest, there are no particular contraindications regarding the use of these substances, which do not appear to cause problems in the event of interaction with the use of medicines or other products.

People who have to pay more attention to the consumption of these substances

Those who are aware of their intolerance to excessive fiber consumption should pay particular attention to their Fos intake.

The people most at risk regarding possible side effects are those with the syndromeIBSfrom alternating river beds (and defecation aberrations, of a different nature) but also those who have Lactose intolerance. The latter in particular should avoid taking doses of Fos greater than 10g per day.

Contribution of supplements

There is the possibility of taking this type of substance also thanks to the use of specific supplements, which are available in pharmacies and pharmacies in various forms (eg in tablets or powder).

It is important to remember in this case that for any type of similar product that you wish to purchase it will be necessary first of all to get the help of your doctor / dietitian, who will help the patient understand what types of nutritional supplements may be more suitable and will provide accurate indications of dosages recommended. It is also of great importance that these materials are taken as simple integrals, eg Not as a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet (accompanied by, and why, an active lifestyle).

Fos is usually included in the following types of products:

  • the live lactic yeast: These are products rich in fructo-oligosaccharides that contribute to the regular functioning of the intestinal bacterial flora and the restoration of colon regularity.
  • the digestive enzymes: Promote complete and rapid digestion. The presence of Fos in them contributes to the absorption of nutrients and stimulates proper bowel function.

All the latest studies on inulin and Fos

Among the properties of insulin, there also seems to be the ability to Significantly reduces the feeling of appetite The need to eat during meals. This was demonstrated in recent research published in the prestigious scientific journal National Library of Medicine (Nlm), which was conducted in 2017 on a sample of 40 women who took 16 grams per day of inulin-type fructans for a week.

Other research published by Nlm on a total of 26 healthy individualsAn increase in bifidobacteria in the intestines of participants who ate inulin-rich vegetables for two weeks. Furthermore, those who made themselves available to this analysis showed an overall greater feeling of satiety, less cravings for fatty or highly salty foods, and a general tendency to prefer inulin-rich plant foods.

As far as Fos (which is very similar to insulin) is concerned, another study of the same scientific publication in 48 overweight adults highlighted Decrease in body weight From 1 kg in 12 weeks for those who consumed 21 grams per day of this substance found in chicory. Consumption of yacon syrup (which is rich in inulin) also contributed to weight loss and lower waist circumference in 35 women who were subject to other research in this regard.

The research presented on NLM over the past few years also points to many other positive effects: consider, for example, an analysis that showed Reducing harmful cholesterol levels In patients who have taken soy milk, or to lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes who have taken insulin.

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