Inulin is a fiber that is naturally present in various plants including onion, garlic, chicory, artichoke, and leek. It is not digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract, so it passes directly to the colon, where it works as prebiotic, providing nutrients for the intestinal microbiota. Adding inulin (and fiber in general) to the diet can improve several health markers. Here are some examples.
Inulin promotes well-being of the intestinal microbiota
The gut microbiota is a community of bacteria and other simple organisms that live in the lumen of the intestine. Their well-being is very important for the well-being of the body. Already in the lumen of the intestine, these bacteria carry out many activities: they promote digestion and motility, synthesize some vitamins, keep the intestinal barrier intact and fight pathogens that come from the external environment.
Emerging data suggest that microbiota carries out many activities also outside the gastrointestinal tract: it helps to regulate immune response and produce important signaling molecules and it constantly collaborates with different body systems.
Scientific studies have confirmed that inulin promotes the growth and development of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli species, genera of bacteria considered beneficial to the organism. This can improve the composition of the intestinal microbiota and therefore contribute to the overall health of the organism.
Inulin can help to increase satiety and promote weight loss
Inulin is not digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract, so, like many other fibers, it ‘occupies’ space by increasing the volume of the food bolus. Therefore, it may help to increase satiety.
In one weight loss study, people with prediabetes took inulin for 18 weeks. Those taking inulin lost 7.6% of their body weight (Guess et al., Nutr Metab, 2015).
Another study was performed with healthy subjects. They were divided into two groups: one group received inulin, and the control group received a placebo. Over time, the control group had a small increase in body weight, while in the inulin group the body weight decreased. Furthermore, in the group with inulin, the level of the hunger hormone (ghrelin) decreased, and the level of the satiety hormone (peptide YY (PYY)) increased (Parnell & Reiner, Am J Clin Nutr, 2009).
Inulin can help to lower blood sugar levels
Inulin can help to manage blood sugar, especially in people with diabetes and prediabetes.
In one study, women with type 2 diabetes received 10 g of inulin every day for 2 months. At the end of this period, their fasting blood sugar level decreased by an average of 8.5% (Dehghan P et al., Health Promot Perspect, 2013).
Studies also suggest that inulin-reach diet can help to improve insulin sensitivity, and may lead to a significant reduction in insulin resistance.
To sum up: inulin is a natural prebiotic. In fortified foods and food supplements, chicory-derived inulin is usually used. Scientific studies suggest that inulin can help to improve digestion, intestinal well-being, and overall health.