Inulin is a very attractive ingredient for the nutritional food industry because it is a soluble fibre with strong prebiotic properties as well as having some key functional benefits too in bowel function. Prebiotics help encourage and foster growth of benign bacteria such as Bifidus in the large intestine. A very important inulin claim has been made which needs to be more thoroughly examined.
Recently, BENEO (Morris Plains, N.J.) who supply dietary fibres received approval for its chicory root extracted inulin (Orafti® inulin) from the European Commission. This is an Article 13.5 company specific claim with the official wording “chicory inulin contributes to normal bowel function by increasing stool frequency.” The emphasis has been placed on inulin performing this function in a natural and mild way.
The health claim was based on six human intervention studies that were able to positively demonstrate consumption increased stool frequency which in turn benefitted digestive health. The recommended amount of 12 g taken daily was obtained from a proprietary study for BENEO’s inulin.
Inulin is a linear polymer of d-fructose molecules, which are linked together with β-2-1 fructosyl fructose linkages and a typical terminal d-glucose molecule (Apolinario et al., 2014). Inulin cannot be digested by humans because we do not have the enzymes tocleave the β-2-1 fructosyl linkages; fortunately, they can be fermented by the beneficial bacteria in the colon hence their prebiotic benefits.
Product Development Uses
Inulin is regularly used in various foods such as yoghurts to improve their organoleptic characteristics. It has a number of useful product development properties because it can form a soft gel in water, it stabilises foams and emulsions, and consequently can be used as a food stabilizer (Kalyani Nair et al., 2010). Moreover, those inulins of high degree of polymerization (DP) can be used as fat replacers in various foods such as cakes, desserts and in fillings (Izzo and Niness, 2001; Murphy, 2001; Frank, 2002).
Other Nutritional Benefits
Inulin also offers several nutritional and health benefit to human diet. Inulin improves mineral absorption such as Ca and Mg, reduces triglyceridemia and thus cardiovascular disease. It even minimizes the risk of diseases related to problems with the gastrointestinal defense mechanisms (Roberfroid, 2005). This same author reported that consuming foods rich in inulin may cause gas and bloating. Although inulin has a pleasant sweet taste, it has no influence on raising blood glucose levels, thus inulin could be suitable to use as a sugar replacer in diets suited to diabetics.
The EFSA ruling will certainly help with the promotion of inulin especially given the great difficulties obtaining claims for prebiotics and generally.
Apolinario, A.C., Damasceno, B.P.G.L., Beltrao, N.E.M., Pessoa, A., Converti, A., Silva, J.Ad. (2014) Inulin type fructans: a review on different aspects of biochemical and pharmaceutical technology. Carbohydr Polym. 101 pp. 368–78.
Frank, A. (2002) Technological functionality of inulin and oligofructose. Br. J. Nutr. 87(S2) S287–S291.
Izzo, M., Niness, K. (2001) Formulating nutrition bars with inulin and oligofructose. Cereal Foods World 46(3) pp. 102–6.
Kalyani Nair, K., Kharb, S., Thompkinson, D.K. (2010) Inulin dietary fiber with functional and health attributes—a review. Food Rev. Int. 26(2) pp. 189–203.
Murphy, O. (2001) Non-polyol low digestible carbohydrates: food applications and functional benefits. Br. J. Nutr. 85 S47–S53.
Roberfroid, M.B. (2005) Introducing inulin-type fructans. Br. J. Nutr. 93 pp. 13–26.