Inulin and oligofructose: what are they?

J Nutr. 1999 Jul;129(7 Suppl):1402S-6S. doi: 10.1093/jn/129.7.1402S.


Inulin is a term applied to a heterogeneous blend of fructose polymers found widely distributed in nature as plant storage carbohydrates. Oligofructose is a subgroup of inulin, consisting of polymers with a degree of polymerization (DP) </=10. Inulin and oligofructose are not digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract; therefore, they have a reduced caloric value. They stimulate the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria. They do not lead to a rise in serum glucose or stimulate insulin secretion. Several commercial grades of inulin are available that have a neutral, clean flavor and are used to improve the mouthfeel, stability and acceptability of low fat foods. Oligofructose has a sweet, pleasant flavor and is highly soluble. It can be used to fortify foods with fiber without contributing any deleterious organoleptic effects, to improve the flavor and sweetness of low calorie foods and to improve the texture of fat-reduced foods. Inulin and oligofructose possess several functional and nutritional properties, which may be used to formulate innovative healthy foods for today's consumer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colon / drug effects
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Digestion
  • Food Additives*
  • Food Industry
  • Humans
  • Inulin / chemistry
  • Inulin / physiology*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Oligosaccharides / administration & dosage
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism*
  • Polymers


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Food Additives
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Polymers
  • oligofructose
  • Inulin