Inulin, oligofructose and intestinal function.


Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Vuksan V.




J Nutr


Inulin and oligofructose have attracted much attention recently as nonabsorbable carbohydrates with prebiotic properties. When inulin and oligofructose were added to a controlled diet, significant increases were noted in colonic bifidobacterial populations, and it has been proposed that these changes promote both colonic and systemic health through modification of the intestinal microflora. Inulin and oligofructose are rapidly and completely fermented by the colonic microflora with the production of acetate and other short-chain fatty acids. As with lactulose, they may also result in the growth of the fecal biomass, and in doing so, entrap ammonia for bacterial protein synthesis or conversion to the ammonium ion. As with dietary fiber and other nonabsorbable carbohydrates, there is also interest in inulin and oligofructose from the standpoint of inhibition of colonic carcinogenesis, blood cholesterol reduction, immune stimulation and enhanced vitamin synthesis. In these areas, the influence of their molecular weight is also an issue, with the longer chain length providing a more sustained fermentation pattern. More human studies are now required, including studies on the long-term effects of inulin and oligofructose consumption on colonic health, in particular on markers of cancer risk such as reduction in colonic polyp recurrence.