Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.


Inulin Molecule[MNP Dewick]

"Inulins are a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides produced by many types of plants,[1] industrially most often extracted from chicory.[2] The inulins belong to a class of dietary fibers known as fructans. Inulin is used by some plants as a means of storing energy and is typically found in roots or rhizomes. Most plants that synthesize and store inulin do not store other forms of carbohydrate such as starch."[Wiki] "Inulin is a natural storage polymer found widely in plants such as chicory, artichoke, and banana. Inulin is a polydisperse fructan that ranges in its degree of polymerization (DP) from 2 to 60, or higher." [Sirisansaneeyakul et al.,2007]

" is well established that probiotic usage should be complemented by the ingestion of prebiotics, which are mainly oligosaccharides (as oligofructose) that improve probiotic viability, both in the dairy product (to which these compounds are most often added) and in the gut. Inulin is a term applied to a heterogeneous blend of fructose-based polymers widely distributed in nature as plant storage carbohydrates. Oligofructose is an anologue of inulin, with a polymerisation degree >10. The criteria used for classifying a food component as a prebiotic are its resistance to digestion, hydrolysis, the ability to be fermented by colonic microbiota and, most importantly, selective growth stimulation of one or a limited number of bacteria in the human colon. This last criterion makes the distinction between a prebiotic and a normal dietary fibre (Ziesenitz et al. 2012)."[Delgado CMD]

"Temperate, cold tolerant grasses like oats, barley, wheat, and rye typically contain fructans and sucrose as the primary carbohydrate reserves. Tropical, warm-loving, and cold-intolerant grasses, such as maize, contain starch and sucrose as the primary reserve carbohydrates."[T&F NPP]

Origin and History

"Inulin is a natural storage carbohydrate present in more than 36,000 species of plants, including wheat, onion, bananas, garlic, asparagus, sunchoke and chicory. For these plants, inulin is used as an energy reserve and for regulating cold resistance.[4][5] Because it is soluble in water, it is osmotically active. The plants can change the osmotic potential of cells by changing the degree of polymerization of inulin molecules with hydrolysis. By changing osmotic potential without changing the total amount of carbohydrate, plants can withstand cold and drought during winter periods.[6] " [Wiki]

Species Known to Contain Inulin (Species in bold are found locally on Vancouver Island)
  • Cynara cardunculus - Globe Artichoke ("native to the Mediterranean and Macaronesia") - 5.18 % [EMNMPV.7]
  • Cynara scolymus - Artichoke [HerbalMed3]
  • Dioscorea esculenta - Asiatic Yam [EMNMPV.10]
  • Leopard's-bane (Arnica montana) [Wiki-Unspecified]
  • Onion (Allium cepa) [Wiki-Unspecified]
  • Wild Garlic (Allium sativum) [Meuninck EWPUH]
  • Agave (Agave spp.) [Wiki-Unspecified]
  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) [HerbalMed3]
  • Elecampane (Inula helenium) - Up to 44% inulin [HerbalMed3] " Inulin 44% in autumn, 20% in spring (Bradley 1992)." [TWHT]
  • Carline Thistle (Carlina acaulis) - "Inulin (18 to 20%) (fructosan)" [PDR]
  • Codonopsis pilosula [Tang CDPO]
  • Rosinweed (Silphium laciniatum) - Inulin in the root [PDR]
  • Murnong (Microseris lanceolata) [Cheryll_Williams]
  • Costus (Saussurea costus) [MPB-Duke] Root; 18% inulin [Puri AHLR]
  • Yacon (Smallianthus sonchifolia) - tuber [Crawford FFFG]
  • Bajitian (Morinda officinalis) [Diu DCH]
  • Seaweed: "Dasycladales, such as Acetabularia, do not always store starch, but often store inulin...(Percival 1979)." [Lobban SEP]
  • " Isolated from dahlia tubers and from other members of the family Compositae." [PCPB] "Inulin is characteristic of the family." [Roth SAMP]
  • Arctium lappa - Great Burdock - "The dry extract of burdock roots contained 40.5 % inulin...up to 45%" [EMNMPV.9] "(up to 45% in A. lappa, up to 27% in A. minus, and up to 19% in A. tomentosum)." [Smet, AEHD-2]
  • Mugwort Root (Artemisia vulgaris) [Wiki-Unspecified]
  • Arrow-Leaved Balsamroot - Balsamorhiza spp. [Meuninck EWPUH]
  • Camas (Camassia spp.) [Wiki-Unspecified] Bulbs [ETWP]
  • Cichorium intybus - Chicory [EMNMPV.9] Root contains up to 58% [Huang Phenolic 1] up to 65% [Eisenman MPCA] inulin. " found to some extent in the stalk of the plant." [Ramzan PESR]
  • Cirsium spp. - Thistles - Root; main carbohydrate is inulin [ETWP]
  • Avalanche Lily - Erythronium grandiflorum [Meuninck EWPUH]
  • Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) [Wiki-Unspecified] Tuber; 8% inulin [Brucher UPNO]
  • Hieracium - "Many species contain inulin." [Daniel F. Austin]
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) [Wiki-Unspecified] Inulin in roots; "ranging from 2% in spring to 40% in autumn, (Grieve 1976)" [Bajaj MAPS6]

Chemical Structure & Properties

"Because of the B(2,1) linkages, inulin is not digested by enzymes in the human alimentary system, contributing to its functional properties: reduced calorie value, dietary fiber and prebiotic effects. Without color and odor, Inulin has little impact on sensory characteristics of food products. Oligofructose has 35% of the sweetness of sucrose, and its sweetening profile is similar to sugar. Standard inulin is slightly sweet, while high performance inulin is not. Its solubility is higher than the classical fibers. When thoroughly mixed with liquid, inulin forms a gel and a white creamy structure, which is similar to fat." [Wiki] "It is only slightly soluble in cold water, but dissolves readily in hot water." [Jacques AT] "Inulin contains 35 fructose residues with the possible addition of a terminal glucose." [Pengelly TCMP]

"It is found to bear a close resemblance to starch except that it is a levulan rather than a dextran. The following characteristic features make it altogether different from starch, namely: Gives yellow colouration by iodine; Does not gelatinize with water." [PCPB]

Inulin "... does not undergo hydrolysis by the amylases." [PCPB]



Processed Foods

"Inulin is increasingly used in processed foods because it has unusually adaptable characteristics. Its flavour ranges from bland to subtly sweet (approx. 10% sweetness of sugar/sucrose). It can be used to replace sugar, fat, and flour. This is advantageous because inulin contains 25-35% of the food energy of carbohydrates (starch, sugar).[12] In addition to being a versatile ingredient, inulin has many health benefits. Inulin increases calcium absorption[13] and possibly magnesium absorption,[14] while promoting the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Chicory inulin is reported to increase absorption of calcium in girls with lower calcium absorption[15] and in young men.[16] In terms of nutrition, it is considered a form of soluble fiber and is sometimes categorized as a prebiotic. Conversely, it is also considered a FODMAP, a class of carbohydrates which are problematic for some individuals through causing overgrowth of intestinal methanogenic bacteria. The consumption of large quantities (in particular, by sensitive or unaccustomed individuals) can lead to gas and bloating, and products that contain inulin will sometimes include a warning to add it gradually to one's diet." [Wiki]

"Chicory inulin has 10% of the sweetness of sugar and is used as a fat and sugar replacement, fiber, and prebiotic in dairy products, frozen desserts, fruit preparations, breads and baked goods, and dietetic products; also as a fat replacement in table spreads, salad dressings, meat products, and fillings; as a fiber and prebiotic in breakfast cereals; sugar replacement and fiber in chocolate; also used to provide form stability, moisture retention, texture improvement, texture, crispness, and mouthfeel in diverse foods.21" [Lung ECNI]

"Due to the body's limited ability to process fructans, inulin has minimal increasing impact on blood sugar. It is considered suitable for diabetics and potentially helpful in managing blood sugar-related illnesses.[citation needed]" [Wiki]


"Some traditional root vegetables, like camas bulbs (Camassia spp.) and onions (Allium spp.) in Liliaceae, and balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) and thistles (Cirsium spp.) in Asteraceae, contain large proportions of inulin, a complex carbohydrate that becomes sweet upon cooking due to a partial conversion to the sugar fructose. Some of these species are traditionally cooked in underground pits, or earth ovens, flavored with various types of plants that also apparently enhance their conversion to fructose and fructans (Peacock, 1998; Konlande and Robson, 1972)." [ETWP] "The bulbs almost always pit-cooked, usually for 24 hours or more. The Blackfoot left them in the pit with a fire burning overtop for up to 70 hours (Johnston, 1987). Because most of their carbohydrate is in the form of a long-chain sugar, inulin, which is not very digestible, nor very palatable, long term cooking was necessary to chemically break down the inulin into its component fructose molecules." [Turner, Kuhnlein]

"Higher amounts of inulin could be extracted from D. esculenta compared to other tubers (Harmayani et al. 2011). They demonstrated the production of inulin powder from D. esculenta by the foam mat drying method using maltodextrin and egg white as filler and foaming agent.... From start of storage till sprouting, the total increase of sucrose content was 33.75 %, the total increase of glucose content was 92.2 % and total increase of fructose content was 69.2 %." [EMNMPV.10]

"A classical character is for example the presence of polyfructane (inulin), a characteristic constituent of Compositae which completely replaces starch as areserve polysaccharide (see e. g. Percival, 1966). This substance is also distributed in some more or less related families (see Hegnauer, 1964), as for example in Campanulaceae, and it is of no further significance for the internal classification of Compositae" [Wagner PP]

Agave Sp.

Cynara cardunculus - Globe Artichoke

Helianthus tuberosus - Jerusalem artichoke

Murnong (Microseris lanceolata)

Industrial/Commercial Utilization

"Nonhydrolyzed inulin can also be directly converted to ethanol in a simultaneous saccharification and fermentation process, which may have great potential for converting crops high in inulin into ethanol for fuel.[19]" [Wiki] " France may really be considered as its secondary gene centre. There 150,000 ha are planted with different clones, between Poitiers, Limoges and the Atlantic coast; mostly as forage for cattle, but also for alcohol production in the cognac industry (Delhay 1979)." [Brucher UPNO]

"Inulin is commercially recovered from chicory roots and Jerusalem artichoke tubers (Hoebregs 1997 ; Frank and Leenheer 2002 ; Rhee et al. 2002 ; Stolzenburg 2005 ). It is used as a mostly indigestible soluble dietary fibre and thickener in foods." [Sirisansaneeyakul et al.,2007]

"A high-quality fructose syrup can be produced from Jerusalem artichoke tubers (Fleming and GrootWassink 1979). They reported that Jerusalem artichoke had the potential to produce more sugar per acre than corn or sugar beets." [EMNMPV.9] Jerusalem artichoke; "Tubers can be processed to fructose syrup, also to alcohol." [Brucher UPNO] "The tuber can be used to produce a highfructose syrup (70-80% fructose, 20-30% glucose)" [Cheryll_Williams]

Harvesting and extraction of inulin

"Chicory root, grown as a root crop in Holland, Belgium and France, is the main source of extraction for commercially produced inulin. The extraction process involves soaking the fresh or dried root in a solvent, the inulin is then mechanically isolated, purified and spray dried.[citation needed]" [Wiki]


"Inulinase from various yeasts has the capability to produce fructose in high concentration from inulin in Jerusalem artichokes and chikory." [Zhiqiang HIM]

"Inulin is hydrolysed by enzymes known as inulinases. Inulinases are classified into endo- and exo- inulinases, depending on their mode of action.... Inulinases are encountered in plants and many microorganisms. Among fungi, some well-known sources of these enzymes include A. niger , Aspergillus ficuum , Chrysosporium pannorum and Penicillium purpurogenum . Among yeasts, the best-known producers are Kluyveromyces marxianus , Candida kefyr , De- baryomyces cantarellii and Pichia polymorpha .These yeasts appear to produce only exo-inulinases whereas most inulin-hydrolysing molds produce both endo- and exo-inulinases (Guiraud and Galzy 1990 ; Frank and Leenheer 2002 ; Barta 1993 ; Hensing et al. 1993 ).... the 5:1 mixture of enzymes was distinctly better than the yeast enzymes alone, in terms of the fructose concen- tration obtained, the proportion of the initial inulin hydrolysed, the yield of fructose on inulin and the productivity of fructose. The 5:1 enzyme mixture was measurably better than the mold enzymes alone, but the difference was not very large. A 1:1 mixture was distinctly poorer than the mold enzymes alone, but still outperformed the yeast enzymes used alone." [Sirisansaneeyakul et al.,2007]

Resorcinol Test for Ketones (Selivanoff's Test)

"A crystal of resorcinol is added to the solution and warmed on a water bath with an equal volume of concentrated hydrochloric acid. A rose colour is produced if a ketone is present (e.g. fructose, honey or hydrolysed inulin)." [Shah TPP]


"Inulin and its analog sinistrin are used to help measure kidney function by determining the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). GFR is the volume of fluid filtered from the renal (kidney) glomerular capillaries into the Bowman's capsule per unit time.[18] Inulin is of particular use as it is not secreted or reabsorbed in any appreciable amount at the nephron, allowing GFR to be calculated. However, due to clinical limitations, inulin and sinistrin, although characterised by better handling features, are rarely used for this purpose and creatinine values are the standard for determining an approximate GFR." [Wiki] "Inulin increases magnesium and calcium absorption, promotes the growth of desirable intestinal bacteria, contains soluble and insoluble fibers, has minimal impact on blood sugar, and unlike fructose does not cause a rise in insulin or raise the level of triglycerides [52-54]. This makes it particularly suitable for diabetics or those managing sugarrelated diseases" [Watson BFPH]

Nutritional Benefits

"Cakes made with 5-10 % Jerusalem artichoke tuber powder (JAP) contained 10.4 and 23.7 mg inulin/g dm, respectively (Celik et al. 2013). Panellists liked the crumb cell structure, flavour, chewiness, softness and sweetness of cakes with Jerusalem artichoke powder equally. Thus, with JAP can be used as a natural source of inulin in many bakery products such as breads, pastas, biscuits and cakes. The consumption of the bakery products containing JAP may help to increase the daily intake of inulin, a health-beneficial constituent for human nutrition. Studies by Kronberga et al. (2013) found that it was possible to substitute 40 % of total amount of sugar with Jerusalem artichoke syrup and so increase the nutritional value of marmalades and cakes and prolong their shelf life." [EMNMPV.9]

"Incorporating both prebiotics and alginate in coating materials may better protect probiotics in the food systems and gastrointestinal tract due to synbiosis. Nazzaro et al. (2008) studied microencapsulated Lb. acidophilus... within an alginate-xantan-inulin matrix and evaluated its ability to ferment carrot juice and withstand gastrointestinal stresses after fermentation and 8 weeks of storage at 4oC. Their results indicated that the encapsulated cells showed higher fermentation activity than free cells. Immobilized cells were more resistant to both the low pH and the pancreatic juice, and concentration-immobilized cells remained constant. A similar trend was noticed after 8 weeks at 4oC. Burleanu et al. (2009) studied the addition of inulin to the process of lactic acid fermentation of beetroot juice using Lb. acidophilus and multiple cultures of Bifidobacterium. They also concluded that in samples with inulin, the lactic fermentation process began faster than in those without inulin. Also, the addition of sugars such as fructooligosaccharide promoted the fermentation process and improved the tastes of fermented juice (Koh et al. 2010).
Summarizing the overall findings, we can conclude that the fermented vegetable juices represent a basis for functional food products with high added value and may benefit consumers searching for an alternative beverage to replace fermented dairy products. Because of this, we hypothesize that fermented vegetable juices would become an increasingly important category in the future." [Hui HPBFFBT]

"Examples of hydrocolloids being substrate for colonic fermentation are pectin, beta-glucan, and non-digestible oligosaccharides such as fructooligosaccharides and inulin. The fermentation produces short chained fatty acids (SCFAs), mainly acetate, propionate, and butyrate, but also carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane gases. These fermentation products have several benefits for the human health. The absorption of the SCFAs promotes water absorption and helps prevent diarrhea (Crump et al. 1980). SCFAs stimulate electrolyte absorption by the mucosa and enhance transport through improving colonic blood flow. Production of SCFAs increases gut acidity, which reduces putrefaction and activity of pathogenic bacteria, which lowers toxins and thus reduces bad odors and bad smelling feces." [Olatunji NP]


"Inulin seems to have antidiabetic, gastrostimulant, hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic, immunostimulant, and lipolytic activities." [HMH Duke] "Addition of inulin to ground beef before frying inhibited the formation of mutagenic compounds (heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) after frying.11 As part of the diet of rats, chicory inulin inhibited tumor formation (colon,12 mammary, and lung) and potentiated the cytotoxic effects of various common anticancer drugs at subtherapeutic dosages (cyclophosphamide, cytarabine, doxorubicine, 5-fluorouracil, methotrexate, and vincristine).13" [Leung ECNI]

"Oligosaccharides, the significant compounds in the root cortex of Bajitian [Morinda officinalis], are account for as much as 18.9 % of dry weight. Because of their high water solubility, significant activity in anti-depression and certain effect on improving reproductive capacity of Kidney-yang deficiency rats, oligosaccharides have been studied widely and deeply. Four inulin-type oligosaccharides were obtained for the first time in 1995 [8] in the study of anti-stress effect.... More oligosaccharides, such as inulotriose, inulotetraose, and inulopentaose were isolated from Bajitian later [9]." [Liu DCH]

"A placebo-controlled study investigated the effect of this high-performance inulin [from Chicory] on bowel function in healthy volunteers with low stool frequency (one stool every 2-3 days). There was a significant increase in stool frequency with the high-performance inulin (38)." [Packer HTM] " Inulin, like other dietary fibers, increases bowel movement and is thus responsible for the laxative and digestive‐stimulant properties." [Ramzan PESR]

Veterinary Use: "In dogs, chicory intake resulted in increased fecal Bifidobacterium concentrations and some decrease in pathogenic bacteria. An increase in short-chain fatty acids was also observed, which can modulate the gut environment, facilitate absorption of nutrients, and reduce the incidence of diarrhea (39)." [Packer HTM]

Metabolism in vivo

"Inulin is indigestible by the human enzymes ptyalin and amylase, which are adapted to digest starch. As a result, inulin passes through much of the digestive system intact. It is only in the colon that bacteria metabolise inulin, with the release of significant quantities of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and/or methane. Inulin-containing foods can be rather gassy, in particular for those unaccustomed to inulin, and these foods should be consumed in moderation at first." [Wiki]

"Inulin is a soluble fiber, one of three types of dietary fiber including soluble, insoluble, and resistant starch. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gelatinous material. Some soluble fibers may help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels." [Wiki]

"Because normal digestion does not break inulin down into monosaccharides, it does not elevate blood sugar levels and may, therefore, be helpful in the management of diabetes. Inulin also stimulates the growth of bacteria in the gut.[4] Inulin passes through the stomach and duodenum undigested and is highly available to the gut bacterial flora. This makes it similar to resistant starches and other fermentable carbohydrates. This contrasts with proprietary probiotic formulations based on lactic acid bacteria (LAB) in which the bacteria have to survive very challenging conditions through the gastrointestinal tract before they are able to colonize the gut." [Wiki]

"Some traditional diets contain over 20 g per day of inulin or fructooligosaccharides. The diet of the prehistoric hunter-forager in the Chihuahuan Desert has been estimated to include 135 g per day of inulin-type fructans.[29] Many foods naturally high in inulin or fructooligosaccharides, such as chicory, garlic, and leek, have been seen as "stimulants of good health" for centuries.[30]"[Wiki]

"Due to its resistance to digestive enzymes, inulin remains entire until it reaches the large intestine. At this stage, inulin is converted by colonic bacteria to a gel known as a prebiotic, which is highly nourishing to gut microflora. As of 2013 no regulatory authority had permitted health claims in the marketing of prebiotics as a class. Inulin's health effects had been studied in small clinical trials, which showed that it causes gastrointestinal adverse effects like bloating and flatulence, does not affect triglyceride levels or development of fatty liver, may help prevent traveler’s diarrhea, and may help increase calcium absorption in adolescents.[31]" [Wiki]

"In the large intestine and the colon, it [Inulin] undergoes almost complete fermentation by bifidobacteria to produce lactic acid, short-chain carboxylic acids (butyrate, acetate, and propionate), and gases.27 The breakdown of inulin by the bacteria initiates a positive feedback on bacterial growth, and thus as a result, the population of bacteria increases. The presence of bifidobacteria is favorable for maintaining a healthy colonic flora. In particular, bifidobacteria were found to inhibit mucosal cell proliferation in the colon as well as inhibit the activity of ornithine decarboxylase enzyme which is necessary for tumor growth.28,29" [Alachi IBM]


Journals of Interest

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