Inulin, a naturally occurring soluble fiber obtained from the root of the chicory plant, is often incorporated into processed foods to add fiber, bulk and a sweet flavor. Inulin can give you a sensation of satiety, or fullness, without raising your blood-sugar levels or adding many calories. These properties have created interest in inulin's possible use for weight loss. While clinical studies are limited, early research supports inulin's effectiveness as an appetite suppressant.
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Features and Benefits
Inulin, a partially digestible carbohydrate, is a fructan, meaning it is comprised of chains of fructose, or fruit sugar. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension notes that inulin has only 1.5 calories per g, compared with the 4 calories per g present in other, fully digestible carbohydrates. According to the Center for Health and Nutrition Research at the University of California-Davis, 6 g of added inulin has as much filling and hunger-suppressing effect as 260 calories. In addition to its potential for promoting weight loss, inulin offers possible health benefits. Drugs.com, which provides peer-reviewed medical information to consumers, credits inulin with inhibiting colon cancer in animal studies, and reports that it may help treat cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. In addition, inulin aids calcium absorption, reduces the absorption of glucose and improves the metabolism of fats in animal studies.
Inulin is a prebiotic, meaning that it supports the presence of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract; a probiotic, by contrast, actually supplies the bacteria. Inulin selectively stimulates the growth of beneficial bifidobactera and lactobacillus while suppressing the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Inulin's prebiotic effects can help prevent constipation and encourage efficient elimination, helping to maintain healthy weight.
In a clinical trial published in 2009 in the "Journal of the American Dietary Association," researchers offered various combinations of high-calorie and low-calorie yogurt beverages -- with and without inulin -- to 38 volunteers, then rated feelings of hunger, fullness, appetite suppression and consumption of a meal offered two hours after the beverages. They found that when inulin was added to low-calorie yogurt, it suppressed appetite and created a sensation of fullness equal to that of the high-calorie yogurt. They concluded that adding fiber such as inulin to low-calorie foods may be an effective method of suppressing appetite and controlling food intake and body weight.
Inulin is found naturally in asparagus, onions, garlic, bananas, wheat and rye. According to Drugs.com, fried chicory roots, which contain 8 percent inulin, can be eaten as a food. Although the FDA lists chicory as generally safe, you should avoid it if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Check with your doctor before trying chicory root.