Inulin is a natural food component found in many plants that are part of the human diet (e.g., leeks, onions, wheat, garlic, chicory and artichokes). It is added to many foods and is used to increase dietary fibre, replace fats or carbohydrates, and as a prebiotic (a stimulant of beneficial bacteria in the colon). Oligofructose, which is also present in these foods, produces similar effects and most research has used a combination of these products. A previous study (Smith, 2005) investigated the effects of regular consumption of oligofructose-enriched inulin on wellbeing, mood, and cognitive performance in humans. The results showed that oligofructose-enriched inulin had no negative effects but that it did not improve wellbeing, mood, or performance. The aim of the present study was to examine the acute effects of oligofructose-enriched inulin (5 g) over a 4 h period during which the participants remained in the laboratory. A double blind placebo (maltodextrin) controlled study (N = 47) was carried out with the order of conditions being counterbalanced and the two sessions a week apart. On each test day mood and cognitive performance were assessed at baseline (at 8:00) and then following inulin or placebo (at 11:00). Prior to the second test session (at 10:30) participants completed a questionnaire assessing their physical symptoms and mental health during the test morning. The inulin and placebo were provided in powder form in 5 g sachets. Volunteers consumed one sachet in decaffeinated tea or decaffeinated coffee with breakfast (9:00). Questionnaire results showed that on the day that the inulin was consumed, participants felt happier, had less indigestion and were less hungry than when they consumed the placebo. As for performance and mood tasks, the most consistent effects were on the episodic memory tasks where consumption of inulin was associated with greater accuracy on a recognition memory task, and improved recall performance (immediate and delayed). Further research is required to identify the mechanisms that underlie this effect with glucose metabolism being one candidate.
Keywords: Oligofructose-enriched inulin; cognition; memory; mood.