Did you know that dietary fiber can help you get leaner? Some types of fiber, such as oligofructose, are more effective than others. When consumed in adequate amounts, they can increase satiety, improve gut health and reduce bad cholesterol.
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Oligofructose is a prebiotic dietary fiber that promotes gut health and supports digestive function. It’s soluble in water and feeds the good bacteria residing in the GI tract, keeping your digestive system running smoothly.
What Is Oligofructose?
Dietary fiber is known for its beneficial effects on appetite, blood sugar levels and body weight. This nutrient can facilitate weight loss by keeping you full longer. What you may not know is that several types of fiber exist and each has distinct characteristics.
Inulin-type fructans (ITFs), for example, are prebiotic dietary fibers that support gut health and feed the good bacteria residing in your digestive tract. These include inulin, oligofructose, beta-glucans and other compounds. In clinical trials, they have been shown to boost immune function and stimulate lactic acid bacteria, according to a March 2019 review published in the journal Foods.
These nutrients are a source of food for the gut bacteria. Therefore, they have a direct impact on the population and composition of the microbiota. Gut health influences other parts of your body, such as the brain, heart and digestive system. As the researchers note, prebiotics not only support digestive function but also have beneficial effects on cognition, memory, mood, learning abilities, cholesterol levels, skin health and body weight.
Read more: 10 Prebiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet Today
Inulin and oligofructose, two of the most important inulin fructans, are derived from chicory root, asparagus, leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, wheat bran and other foods.
These compounds may improve nutrient absorption, promote regularity and stimulate the production of satiety hormones, as reported in a December 2014 article featured in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety and funded by Sensus B.V. Both nutrients serve as soluble fiber and may cause positive changes in the microflora.
Does Oligofructose Promote Weight Loss?
Dietary fiber, including oligofructose, can make it easier to lose weight and keep it off. It does so by suppressing appetite and increasing fullness. On top of that, it supports gut health, which in turn, can improve appetite control and accelerate weight loss.
A review published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism in October 2013 assessed the effects of inulin-type fructans on body weight, appetite and food intake. Researchers analyzed several randomized controlled trials and concluded that ITFs may help reduce body weight in the long run.
In a small study cited in the above review, dieters who consumed 16 grams of oligofructose per day for two weeks reported greater satiety after breakfast compared to the control group. In another study, this compound reduced food intake after breakfast and lunch by about 10 percent in normal weight and overweight subjects.
Other studies included in the review found that oligofructose decreased energy intake by almost one-third compared to a placebo. Furthermore, this nutrient has been shown to significantly reduce body weight in children.
These findings indicate that insulin-type fructans may increase satiety and help you slim down. However, most clinical trials were small or had conflicting results, so further research is needed to clarify the role of oligofructose in weight loss.
As mentioned, gut flora influences body weight and appetite control. The microorganisms living in the digestive tract affect how different nutrients are processed.
For example, gut microbes affect your body's ability to extract and store calories as fat, according to a March 2017 large-scale study featured in the International Journal of Obesity. The same source states that high-fiber diets increase gut microbiota diversity, which may help protect against long-term weight gain.
In fact, gut microflora composition alone may contribute to weight gain, regardless of your dietary and exercise habits. Dietary fiber may help improve the microbiome composition, leading to a faster metabolism and weight loss. Additionally, gut bacteria regulate appetite and hence, influence the feelings of hunger and satiety.
The Health Benefits of Oligofructose
Oligofructose and inulin-type fructans, in general, do a lot more than just help you maintain a healthy weight. These nutrients keep your digestive system running smoothly, promoting regular bowel movements.
A meta-analysis published in Nutricion Hospitalaria in August 2014 found that inulin has beneficial effects on stool frequency, consistency, hardness and transit time, leading to improved bowel function. However, it didn't relieve bloating and stomach pain as expected.
According to the Foods review, prebiotics may benefit your heart and central nervous system as well as immune system.
These nutrients feed the friendly gut bacteria, which in turn, may help protect against colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disorders and mineral deficiencies. They may also lower bad cholesterol levels, reduce fat storage and improve lactose digestion. The Foods review included some studies that suggest that insulin-type fructans may relieve the symptoms associated with Crohn's disease and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics points out, fermentable fibers, such as oligofructose, may also help your body absorb certain nutrients more efficiently. Their role in the prevention of obesity and diabetes is well-documented. Researchers state that adequate dietary fiber may be essential for keeping the microbiota in balance.
Increase Your Fiber Intake Gradually
Like everything else, dietary fiber has its drawbacks. Bloating, gas, abdominal pain and digestive discomfort are all common side effects, especially when high doses of fiber are ingested. For example, the studies cited in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism reported the following adverse reactions:
- Abdominal rumbling
- Severe bloating
- Stomach pain
The experts at Duke University warn about the dangers of eating too much fiber. When consumed in excess, this nutrient may interfere with the absorption of iron, calcium, zinc and other minerals, affect appetite and cause intestinal blockage. You may also feel too full and experience unintentional weight loss.
To stay safe, stick to the recommended fiber intake, which is 25 to 30 grams per day. If you have constipation or have poor digestion, add more fiber to your diet gradually.
Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods — Some May Surprise You!
Remember that oligofructose is soluble in water, so it won't work unless you drink plenty of fluids. In fact, too much fiber and not enough water may worsen constipation.
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial"
- NCBI - Foods: "Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications"
- Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: "Significance of Inulin Fructans in the Human Diet"
- Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism: "Effects of Inulin-Type Fructans on Appetite, Energy Intake, and Body Weight in Children and Adults: Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- International Journal of Obesity: "Gut Microbiome Diversity and High-Fibre Intake Are Related to Lower Long-Term Weight Gain"
- NCBI: "Involvement of Gut Bacteria in Appetite Control"
- NCBI: "Effectiveness of Inulin Intake on Indicators of Chronic Constipation; A Meta-Analysis of Controlled Randomized Clinical Trials"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber"
- Duke University: "Fiber-How"
- University of California San Francisco: "Increasing Fiber Intake"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Constipation, Diarrhea and Fiber"