Inulin, naturally produced by certain plants, is a source of energy for the body. It is a type of edible fibre, added to several products due to its health benefits.
Prebiotic dietary fibres and their health effects have been extensively reviewed and accepted worldwide.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotic Dietary fibre is a type of fibre which passes through the gastrointestinal tract undigested and stimulates the growth and activity of microbiota , therefore functions by delivering a specific or selective change that benefits our health.
Prebiotics include fructans and galacto-oligosachairdes (GOS).
The main function of prebiotic fibres :-
- Increase in bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (gut friendly bacteria)
- Production of beneficial metabolites
- Improves immune system
- Decrease pathogenic bacteria population
What is Inulin ?
It is a water soluble polysaccharide and belongs to a group of fructans , which are non digestible carbohydrates. Chicory roots are the richest source of inulin.
Inulin is considered as functional food as it helps alter physiological and biochemical processes of the body for better health and prevent occurrence of many diseases.
Its common application in food is for prebiotic properties, replacement of fat, sugar , and texture modifier.
Importance of soluble fibre in diet
A good diet greatly alters the composition of the gut microbiota and often dependent on the macronutrient composition. A study showed that incorporation of inulin i.e. 10g/d to a carbohydrate rich and reduction of fatty foods, promotes a positive outcome on the plasma lipids by lowering the blood lipogenesis and thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
Health benefits of inulin
It may play a role in combating diet related and metabolic diseases and its utilisation as a novel product.
Studies have shown that it helps stimulate the immune system of the body , decrease the pathogenic bacteria , reduces the cholesterol levels , relieves constipation and modulation of sugar levels in diabetics.
Better absorption of micronutrients
It may also improve the calcium absorption in the body , which decreases the risk of osteoporosis and bone related disorders at postmenopausal phase and elderly.
Insulin as a prebiotic
Fermentable Oligo Di, Monosaccharide and Polyols : (FODMAP) these are groups of carbohydrates considered as functional foods. These draw water into the colon and helps manage constipation and relate gut ailments. Also, it gets readily fermented by the micro flora in the digestive tract and promotes in their multiplication and inhibit pathogenic bacteria. Thus, acts as a prebiotic for probiotic bacteria.
It helps in regulation of appetite and control hunger better by providing satiety feeling for long duration.
It may aid in removing cholesterol by binding with Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) particles and its excretion from the body, hence reducing oral cholesterol levels of the body.
Maintain sugar levels
Fibre has low glycemic index which makes it beneficial for diabetics and doesn’t lead to sudden spike in sugar levels.
In conclusion, inulin has many beneficial effects and is widely used in fibre supplements, food products to provide health benefits and improve health.