Inulin is a type of water-soluble prebiotic fiber found in onions, leeks, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke and many other foods. Prebiotics are indigestible to you, but they help nourish beneficial bacteria in your body.
These beneficial bacteria in turn assist with digestion and absorption of your food and play a significant role in your immune function. Inulin is a fructan, which means it is made up of chains of fructose molecules.
Inulin, in your gut is converted into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are then converted to healthy ketones that feed your tissues. SCFAs may also nourish colon cells and produce more appetite-controlling hormones in your body.1
As such, inulin has multiple benefits to your health, although there are some risks you should be aware of as well.
Inulin May Lower Your Risk of Diabetes
Among obese women, consuming inulin beneficially changed their gut microbiota composition in a way that might help promote weight loss or lower the risk of diabetes.
Further, among women with type 2 diabetes, those who took inulin had improved glycemic control and increased antioxidant activity. It’s thought that inulin may work to improve diabetes by positively modifying gut microflora or due to a direct antioxidant effect.
Prolonged exposure to excess insulin causes oxidative stress, which is thought to play a key role in type 2 diabetes and its complications. Inulin may help to counteract this with its antioxidant effects.
In addition, a high-performance type of inulin was found to decrease liver fat in people with pre-diabetes.
Women with type 2 diabetes who took 10 grams of high-performance inulin a day also had decreases in fasting blood sugar (by 8.5 percent) while A1c levels (a measure of long-term blood sugar control) dropped by 10.5 percent.
Inulin Promotes Weight Loss
A number of studies have shown the potential for inulin to help with weight loss. Among overweight and obese adults, those who took 21 grams of inulin a day had decreases in their hunger hormone and increase in satiety hormones.
Further, they lost more than two pounds while the control group gained one pound. Among people with prediabetes, meanwhile, those taking inulin for 18 weeks lost 7.6 percent of their body weight compared to the control group’s 4.9 percent.8
Inulin offers a number of additional potential benefits, including:
- Heart Health: Inulin may lower blood triglycerides and cholesterol
- Bone Health: Inulin improves absorption of calcium and magnesium, leading to improved bone density and bone mineralization in children.
- Colon Cancer: There is research showing inulin may reduce precancerous colon growths, lead to less inflammation and fewer precancerous cell changes in animal studies, and support a less favorable environment for colon cancer development in humans.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Research isn’t definitive, but it appears inulin may help reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis and reduce inflammatory markers in Crohn’s disease
- Constipation: Daily supplementation with 15 grams of inulin improved constipation and quality of life in elderly people with constipation