Inulin and oligofructose and mineral metabolism: the evidence from animal trials

J Nutr. 2007 Nov;137(11 Suppl):2513S-2523S. doi: 10.1093/jn/137.11.2513S.


Nondigestible oligosaccharides have been shown to increase the absorption of several minerals (calcium, magnesium, in some cases phosphorus) and trace elements (mainly copper, iron, zinc). Inulin-type fructans including oligofructose and fructooligosaccharides derived from sucrose by enzymatic transfructosylation are the best investigated food ingredients in this respect. The stimulation of absorption was more pronounced when the demand for calcium was high, i.e., in animals in the rapid growing stage and in animals with impaired calcium absorption because of either ovariectomy or gastrectomy. Even a small stimulation of calcium absorption increased the mineral accumulation in the skeleton because of its persisting effect over months. Inulin-type fructans stimulated mineral absorption and bone mineral accretion when combined with probiotic lactobacilli and in the presence of antibiotics. Direct comparison of different inulin-type fructans revealed a more pronounced effect by inulin or a mixture of long-chain inulin and oligofructose than by oligofructose alone. Mechanisms on how inulin-type fructans mediate this effect include acidification of the intestinal lumen by short-chain fatty acids increasing solubility of minerals in the gut, enlargement of the absorption surface, increased expression of calcium-binding proteins mainly in the large intestine, modulated expression of bone-relevant cytokines, suppression of bone resorption, increased bioavailability of phytoestrogens, and, via stimulation of beneficial commensal microorganisms, increase of calcium uptake by enterocytes. Under certain conditions, inulin-type fructans may improve mineral absorption by their impact on the amelioration of gut health including stabilization of the intestinal flora and reduction of inflammation. The abundance of reports indicate that inulin-type fructans are promising substances that could help to improve the supply with available calcium in human nutrition and by this contribute to bone health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcification, Physiologic / drug effects*
  • Calcification, Physiologic / physiology
  • Calcium, Dietary / metabolism
  • Calcium, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Fructans / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Inulin / pharmacology
  • Inulin / physiology*
  • Oligosaccharides / pharmacology*
  • Oligosaccharides / physiology*
  • Trace Elements / metabolism*
  • Trace Elements / pharmacokinetics


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Fructans
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Trace Elements
  • oligofructose
  • Inulin