Inulin-type fructans: functional food ingredients

J Nutr. 2007 Nov;137(11 Suppl):2493S-2502S. doi: 10.1093/jn/137.11.2493S.


A food (ingredient) is regarded as functional if it is satisfactorily demonstrated to affect beneficially 1 or more target functions in the body beyond adequate nutritional effects. The term inulin-type fructans covers all beta(2<--1) linear fructans including native inulin (DP 2-60, DP(av) = 12), oligofructose (DP 2-8, DP(av) = 4), and inulin HP (DP 10-60, DP(av) = 25) as well as Synergy 1, a specific combination of oligofructose and inulin HP. Inulin-type fructans resist digestion and function as dietary fiber improving bowel habits. But, unlike most dietary fibers, their colonic fermentation is selective, thus causing significant changes in the composition of the gut microflora with increased and reduced numbers of potentially health-promoting bacteria and potentially harmful species, respectively. Both oligofructose and inulin act in this way and thus are prebiotic: they also induce changes in the colonic epithelium and in miscellaneous colonic functions. In particular, the claim "inulin-type fructans enhance calcium and magnesium absorption" is scientifically substantiated, and the most active product is oligofructose-enriched inulin (Synergy 1). A series of studies furthermore demonstrate that inulin-type fructans modulate the secretion of gastrointestinal peptides involved in appetite regulation as well as lipid metabolism. Moreover, a large number of animal studies and preliminary human data show that inulin-type fructans reduce the risk of colon carcinogenesis and improve the management of inflammatory bowel diseases. Inulin-type fructans are thus functional food ingredients that are eligible for enhanced function claims, but, as more human data become available, risk reduction claims will become scientifically substantiated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Digestion / drug effects
  • Digestion / physiology*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Fructans / chemistry
  • Fructans / metabolism
  • Fructans / pharmacology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inulin / metabolism
  • Inulin / pharmacokinetics
  • Inulin / physiology*
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects


  • Fructans
  • Inulin