Inulin is a type of fibre known as a fructan or fructooligosaccharide, a carbohydrate made from a short chain of fructose molecules that your body doesn’t digest.
It acts as a prebiotic, meaning that it feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. These helpful bacteria play a role in reducing inflammation, fighting harmful bacteria, and improving mineral absorption.
Plants naturally produce inulin and use it as an energy source. Today, it’s being added to more and more food products because of its benefits and adaptability
Benefits of inulin
Inulin is high in fibre and low in calories. It also has other health benefits.
It keeps you full (of fibre)
Fibre is any type of carbohydrate the body can’t digest. It moves through the intestines intact and continues into the colon to serve as a food for the bacteria there. Fiber has low caloric value, but it’s essential to good health.
The fibre in inulin is soluble, which means it dissolves in water. It dissolves in the stomach and then forms a gelatinous substance that:
reduces cholesterol absorption as it passes through the digestive tract
It promotes digestive health
Your gut contains between 15,000 and 36,000 species of bacteria. Only a small portion of the bacteria in the body has the potential to be harmful. Good bacteria provide many health benefits. Inulin stimulates some of these bacteria to grow.
Inulin aids digestion by increasing the number of good bacteria in the gut, particularly Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
These bacteria help:
fend off unwanted pathogens (bad bacteria)
stimulate your immune system
Inulin also adds bulk to your stool and increases the frequency of your bowel movements. You may have more bowel movements, but inulin slows overall digestion. This enables your body to better absorb nutrients from the food you eat.
A recent study suggests inulin can also enable the body to better absorb calcium. Calcium creates a stronger skeletal system.
It controls blood sugar
Inulin slows digestion, including the digestion of carbohydrates. This allows sugar to be released slowly without spiking, which promotes healthy blood sugar levels.
A 2015 study revealed that inulin might benefit people with prediabetes. It can act as a potential blood sugar stabilizer when present in your diet over a long period of time.
Some research suggests these properties make inulin a good weight management aid.
It could potentially lower your colon cancer risk
Studies show that a high intake of dietary fiber, like inulin, is associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Researchers are actively exploring the use of inulin to prevent cancer.
As an immune system booster, it may also be a good preventive supplement against cancers of the digestive system. More studies are needed before any strong claims can be made about the effects of inulin on colon cancer.
Note: This does not constitute medical advice, always consult your GP if you are concerned about your health.