What Is Inulin? - Blog - Persona Nutrition

What Is Inulin?

By Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, and medical advisory board member for Persona Nutrition

 

You probably have heard of fiber. But have you heard of inulin? It’s worth a look, because this new kid on the nutrient block has some important health benefits.

 

Inulin is a group of carbohydrate-like substances found in a variety of foods, from garlic, onions, and leeks to bananas, artichokes, asparagus, and whole wheat. Chicory root is the richest source of inulin, so is the primary source for inulin in supplements and fortified foods. It has a creamy and sweet texture, so it is used in foods as a fat and/or sugar replacer and to improve texture. (1,2)

 

Digestive Health Benefits

The inulin story begins with gut health. Your gut environment, called the microbiome, contains a population of tens of thousands of different good and bad bacteria. The right balance is important for gut health and to protect the body from disease. The healthy bacteria are called probiotics and include lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Inulin is what the experts call a “prebiotic,” which means it is fermented in the GI tract and supports a healthy microbiome by encouraging the growth and activity of these probiotics.* For example, inulin can help relieve constipation in everyone from kids to seniors, it may reduce GI infections and inflammation. (1-8)

 

Inulin Benefits

But, that’s just the tip of the nutritional iceberg. Inulin is a soluble fiber, so it slows digestion and allows carbohydrates and sugars to be released slowly into the blood stream. This helps stabilize blood sugar and maintain normal blood sugar levels. (9) In addition, inulin improves the absorption of several nutrients, including calcium and magnesium, and may be useful in increasing bone density. (7-9) Saving the best for last – being a soluble fiber, inulin helps slow digestion, increase feelings of fullness, and suppresses appetite, so is a worthwhile addition to the diet for those trying to maintain or lose weight. (10,11) Alongside Inulin we suggest looking into what is collagen.

 

Just don’t overdo it (think, “the key to success is balance”)! Like any fiber, inulin can cause gas and bloating, especially if you jump into a fiber-rich diet too soon. If a fiber-rich diet is new to you, then drink lots of water and start with a small dose of 2 to 3 grams of inulin a day. For easy reference, Persona’s Adult Immune Support Prebiotic gummy vitamin contains 3.6 grams of inulin per day through chicory root powder. Even if you do experience some bloating or gas, the symptoms subside with use and are most common when intake is high, such as 30 grams a day. Of course, like any supplement, if you have concerns or questions about inulin fiber, always discuss them with your doctor.

 

Inulin is just one ingredient in a healthful life. You’ll stack the deck in favor of living a long and healthful life if you also pack the plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, 100% whole grains, legumes, and other unprocessed foods; fill in the nutritional gaps with a personalized supplement program designed specifically for you; exercise daily; and sleep well.

 

*The combined effect of probiotics and prebiotics is called synbiotics.

References:

  1. Niness K: Inulin and oligofructose: What are they? J Nutr 1999;129 (7 Suppl):1402S-1406S.
  2. Shoaib M, Shehzad A, Omar M, et al: Inulin: Properties, health benefits and food applications. Carbohydr Polym 2016;147:444-454.
  3. Kolida S, Tuohy K, Givson G: Prebiotic effects of inulin and oligofructose. Br J Nutr 2002;87 (suppl 2):S193-S197.
  4. Watzl B, Girrbach S, Roller M: Inulin, oligofructose and immunomodulation. Br J Nutr 2005;93 (suppl1):S49-S55.
  5. Casellas F, Borruel N, Torrejon A, et al: Oral oligofructose-enriched inulin supplementation in acute ulcerative colitis is well tolerated and associated with lowered faecal calprotectin. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2007;25:1061-1067.
  6. De Vrese M, Schrezenmier J: Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics.  Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol 2008;111:1-66.
  7. Costa G, Vasconcelos Q, Abreu G, et al: Changes in nutrient absorption in children and adolescents caused by fructans, especially fructooligosaccharides and inulin. Arch Pediatr 2020;27:166-169.
  8. Scholz-Ahrens K, Schrezenmier J: Inulin and oligofructose and mineral metabolism. J Nutr 2007;137 (suppl):2513S-2523S.
  9. Weaver C: Inulin, oligofructose and bone health. Br J Nutr 2005;93 (suppl 1):S99-S103.
  10. Chambers E, Viardot A, Psichas A, et al: Effects of targeted delivery of propionate to the human colon on appetite regulation, body weight maintenance and adiposity in overweight adults. Gut 2015;64:1744-1754.
  11. Guess N, Dornhorst A, Oliver N, et al: A randomized controlled trial: The effect of inulin on weight management and ectopic fat in subjects with prediabetes. Nutr Metal 2015;12:36.

 

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