Fermentation and bulking capacity of indigestible carbohydrates: the case of inulin and oligofructose

Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S163-8. doi: 10.1079/BJNBJN/2002533.


The bulking index (i.e. the increase in faecal fresh weight in gram per gram indigestible carbohydrate ingested) with oligofructose and inulin is similar to that produced with other easily fermented fibres such as pectins and gums. Most studies in man have been performed at a level of 15 g/d and more investigations on lower intakes are needed to appoint the least intake for an effect. Concerning short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) most studies have been using oligofructose and points at an increased butyric acid formation in the caecum of rats. In one study on rats with inulin high caecal proportions of propionic acid were obtained. As inulin has a higher molecular weight than oligofructose it might be speculated if this could be a reason to the different SCFA-profile formed. No effects on faecal concentrations of SCFA in humans have been revealed with inulin and oligofructose, which neither is expected as most of the SCFA formed during the fermentation already has been absorbed or utilized by the colonic mucosa.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cathartics / metabolism*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism
  • Feces
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Large / metabolism*
  • Inulin / metabolism*
  • Models, Animal
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism*
  • Osmosis


  • Cathartics
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Inulin