Different supplements come into the limelight for many reasons, but when you’re presented with a specific product, it’s important to evaluate it to know if it’s right for you.
One supplement that’s taken centre stage recently with a documentary on the BBC is a substance known as inulin.
In this article, we take you through the findings of scientific literature that focuses on inulin, which covers the benefits, dosage, and side effects of this supplement to help you understand what it is and how it truly works.
What is Inulin?
Inulin is a fibrous carbohydrate that’s classified as a starch. This substance can be found in a variety of foods such as vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Inulin is in the class of compounds known as fructans and is a naturally occurring oligosaccharide, which means it has several simple sugars linked together.
Inulin has a slightly sweet taste, so some people use it as a sweetener for a variety of things.
As inulin is not absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, it is considered to be a fibre. It travels down to the large intestine, where it then benefits the bacteria in your gut, which is why it’s therefore also considered to be prebiotic.
Examples of foods that contain inulin:
✓ Sweet potatoes
Benefits of Inulin
✓ Feeling Full
As inulin is a fibre, this helps you to feel fuller for longer. It also helps to slow down digestion, which allows the body to better absorb nutrients from food that you eat. Plus, as a fibre, it aids in preventing constipation and aids bowel movements.
✓ Weight Loss
Although not much research has been carried out, many conclude that inulin may aid weight loss. Prebiotic bacteria is promoted from inulin consumption, which can help nutrient absorption, which may be able to aid weight loss and weight management.
As it’s made up of fibre, it may also control blood sugar and help you eat less by making you feel full.
And finally, because of its naturally sweet taste, it can also be used as a sweetener, which means that many people use inulin as a sugar substitute. This can really help to keep your calories down, whilst still keeping food interesting and enjoyable to eat — and therefore can help with weight management and dieting.
✓ Digestive Health
As inulin is a non-digestible prebiotic, it helps to promote the good bacteria in the stomach and may therefore have certain health benefits. Bacteria in your body uses prebiotics to stay healthy, which in turn keeps your stomach healthy. Inulin may help to reduce the amount of bad bacteria, prevent infection, and stimulate your immune system.
It can also help to remove cholesterol from along the digestive tract.
✓ Controlling Diabetes
Several studies suggest that inulin may be useful in helping to control diabetes, as it may improve blood sugar control. It does this by helping to slow down digestion, including carbohydrate digestion, which allows for a slower release of sugar and prevents sugar levels from spiking — which has the potential to be really dangerous to diabetics.
This depends on the type of inulin though, as it seems that only high-performance (HP) inulin has any benefit. HP inulin is inulin that has been modified for commercial use by having the shorter molecules removed.
✓ Useful in Baking
This versatile supplement can be used in a variety of ways to keep your diet interesting. If used in baking it can prevent cakes and biscuits from being too dry, and will also act as a binding agent. Plus, if mixed with water and heated, inulin can be used as a tasty low-sugar syrup.
Some people may find they are sensitive to inulin, however the majority of the population can take inulin with no problems. The recommended dose for people with normal digestive function can be 5-10 grams of inulin per day. Some people experiment with a small amount and see how it feels, then increase the dosage.
Some people take as high as 40 grams per day, but keeping it between a maximum of 10-14 grams per day after building up a tolerance should be reasonable to reap the benefits.
Always read the label and the recommended dosage for each specific product.
Stomach problems may occur in a small amount of people, including uncomfortable bowel movements, flatulence, loose stools, bloating, cramps, and diarrhoea. Some individuals may experience constipation.
To prevent this from happening, ensure you’re drinking enough water and increase it if necessary when taking inulin.
Take Home Message
All-in-all, inulin is an interesting supplement that can be great for your baking and can provide many health benefits too, with a low risk of side effects that should decrease over time as the body becomes more used to supplementation. Although side effects may be low, adjusting the dosage to fit your needs can help you reap its benefits.