Nutritional aspects of short-chain fructooligosaccharides: natural occurrence, chemistry, physiology and health implications

Dig Liver Dis. 2002 Sep;34 Suppl 2:S111-20. doi: 10.1016/s1590-8658(02)80177-3.


Short-chain fructooligosaccharides occur in a number of edible plants, such as chicory, onions, asparagus, wheat... They are a group of linear fructose oligomers with a degree of polymerisation ranging from n = 1 up to 5 (oligosaccharides). Short-chain fructooligosaccharides, to a large extent, escape digestion in the human upper intestine and reach the colon where they are totally fermented mostly to lactate, short chain fatty acids (acetate, propionate and butyrate), and gas, like dietary fibres. As a consequence of their fermentation, their caloric value is approximately 2 Kcal/g. A faecal bulking effect of fructooligosaccharides has been observed in humans. An important property of short-chain fructooligosaccharides is the stimulation of bifidobacterial growth specifically while suppressing the growth of potentially harmful species such as, for example, Clostridium perfringens in the colon. It is associated with a decrease in faecal pH, an increase in faecal or colonic organic acids, a decrease in the production of nitrogenous end products in urine and stools, a decrease in faecal bacterial enzymatic activities and a modification in faecal neutral sterols. The short-chain fructooligosaccharides enhance magnesium absorption in humans and have been shown, in animal models, to reduce colon tumour development by enhancing both colon butyrate concentrations and local immune system effectors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Butyrates
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile* / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile* / physiology
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Oligosaccharides* / chemistry
  • Oligosaccharides* / physiology
  • Plants, Edible*


  • Butyrates
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Oligosaccharides