Inulin: Is This Commonly Used Fiber Additive Friend or Foe?

Ariel Harsinay


September 18, 2019

How Inulin Is Beneficial to Health

There are several reasons why adding inulin to foods can confer health advantages.

Inulin is a prebiotic, a type of dietary fiber that helps the microflora found within the intestines to thrive.[7,8] Because inulin is not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract, its fermentation occurs only once it reaches the colon, where it provides additional benefits to bacteria that reside there, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.[8] By enhancing these bacteria's innate properties, inulin may improve digestion, relieve constipation, promote the breakdown of fat, and boost the immune system.[9,10,11]

The prebiotic effects of inulin account for its role in the enhanced absorption of many nutrients, including calcium, probably via lowering the pH of the intestines and consequently increasing the availability of calcium within the microbiome.[7]

Inulin has been linked to the prevention of several diseases.[12,13,14,15] Primarily, inulin reportedly reduces the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the obese, specifically through increasing short-chain fatty acids and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and decreasing triglycerides.[13,14,16] Inulin's ability to boost the immune system and support the microbiome may also aid in protecting against prediabetes as well as subtypes like autoimmune diabetes.[16]

The role of inulin in combating certain cancers is less clear, with studies providing inconsistent results. Inulin may reduce inflammation typically associated with the development of colorectal cancer.[17] Its ability to inhibit tumor growth remains inconclusive in humans, although a systematic review did find that inulin supplementation led to effects typically associated with apoptosis and reduced tumor cell proliferation.[15] In animal studies, however, inulin has also been linked to an increased risk for liver cancer through the development of carcinomas during its fermentation process.[18]


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