Inulin Hormone: Description, Benefits, and Side Effects

If you're going to consume inulin, you must do it in the right amounts. This is the only way to take advantage of its benefits. We'll tell what doctors recommend here!
Inulin Hormone: Description, Benefits, and Side Effects

Last update: 09 June, 2021

Fiber is a major component of most healthy diets and the inulin hormone is one of them. It’s made up of a mixture of large and small carbohydrates, among which fructose is the main sugar. That’s why it also has the name “fructan.”

Its ability to absorb water classifies it as a soluble fiber, which provides a minimum caloric value (just 1.5 calories per gram or 0.05 oz). It has special health properties and, according to Kaur and Gupta, its behavior compared to other ingredients broadens its application in the food industry.

Where can we find this type of fiber, what are its benefits and what precautions should we take when consuming it? You’re at the right place to find out!

Sources of inulin hormone

ALAN magazine published that more than 36,000 plant species contain inulin hormone, but only in some foods is it found in sufficient quantities.

Among the plants that produce the most fructans are those of the Liliaceae family, such as garlic, onions, and asparagus, and the Compositae family, in roots and tubers such as chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, and yacon.

A review shows inulin values in grams per 100 grams (3.5 oz) of dehydrated food:

  • Jerusalem artichoke: 89%
  • Chicory: 79%
  • Dahlia root: 59%
  • Onion: 48%
  • Leek: 37%
  • Garlic: 29%
  • Yacon: 27%
  • Asparagus: 4%
  • Cambur: 2%
  • Rye: 1%

Chicory roots are the most common source for extracting inulin and are distributed in many regions of the world, from Central and Northern Europe, China, Africa, South America, and India. More common foods, such as onions and garlic, contain it in moderate proportions.

Inulin can be ingested naturally or in supplement form, which is a fast and effective way of supplying it to the body. However, a health professional must recommend the dosage.

What are the benefits of inulin?

Professionals have studied several benefits of inulin, not only in health but also in the food industry. Let’s review these properties.

Like other fibers, inulin stimulates the healthy growth of microorganisms of the intestinal microbiota.

It’s a recognized prebiotic

One of the most recognized benefits of inulin is its prebiotic effect. That is, we can use it as a substrate or food to allow the growth of beneficial bacteria at the intestinal level. These bacteria confront disease-causing ailments.

Macfarland and other experts have shown, through laboratory and human trials, that inulin can promote the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli while decreasing Clostridium.

Vitae magazine reveals the benefits of probiotics. For example, they facilitate the digestion of lactose and protect against diarrhea, irritable bowel, and intestinal inflammation. They also prevent urogenital infections and promote the gut’s barrier defense.

It controls blood lipids

The Revista Médica de Chile published a clinical trial on 12 obese patients with elevated lipids. They received 7 grams (0.2 oz) of inulin as a source of fiber per day. After a few months of consumption, it was concluded that inulin was able to lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Other human studies have also shown beneficial effects of inulin on the blood lipid profile. In some cases, only a reduction in triglycerides has been found, while one study showed no effect in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.

In terms of dosage, the evidence indicates that an intake of 6 to 12 grams (0.2 to 0.4 oz) of inulin daily for 2 to 3 months achieves significant reductions in serum cholesterol. It seems to stimulate cholesterol excretion through feces.

It aids in weight control

Some research links inulin to the modification of ghrelin hormone signaling, which is linked to appetite. Although the studies reviewed aren’t clear enough to affirm it, what is clear is that it increases the satiety of some preparations.

By enhancing the sensation of hunger, we can reduce caloric intake. Studies have shown that between 1 to 6 kilos (2 to 13 pounds) can be lost in 12 to 18 weeks by adding inulin powder to the diet. In addition, it reduces fat accumulation in the liver and muscle tissue.

It helps regulate blood sugar

Insulin is the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. It carries glucose from the circulation to the muscles and liver, so these cells can metabolize it from inside.

Diabetology magazine clarifies that inulin, like other soluble fibers, can improve blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and the rate at which sugars are absorbed by cells.

It improves calcium and magnesium absorption

Some researchers found positive effects on bone content and density in laboratory animals that consumed inulin in their diets, as it increased calcium absorption.

In adolescent patients, 8 (o.o2 oz) grams of inulin were needed for 8 weeks to observe positive results. The Journal of Nutrition reported that inulin also favored magnesium absorption.

It’s a fat substitute

In the industry, the inulin hormone is an excellent binder and gelling agent that companies use to replace fat in light foods. According to the journal Phytochemistry, when long-chain inulin is diluted in water or milk it forms very small crystals that bind together to achieve a creamy texture.

It’s a sugar substitute

You can use inulin as a good substitute for sugar, especially short-chain sugar, as it has a similar sweet taste and properties. When 50% of the sugar is replaced by inulin to make muffins, the taste results are very convincing. We bet you didn’t know that!

It’s a texture modifier

Inulin modifies the hardness of foods, increasing it depending on the concentration used. Garcia and other experts, when evaluating a mortadella mixed with inulin, found that the hardness improved when it was used only 2.5% in the formulation.

A woman in the supermarket
In the food industry, inulin replaces sugars and fats to create products with the light label.

What are the side effects of the inulin hormone?

We should maintain the properties of inulin by taking care of the amount we ingest. When its consumption is above 7 to 10 grams per day  (0.2 to 0.3 oz) it can cause the following:

  • Digestive discomfort with a feeling of abdominal distension and fullness
  • Flatulence and gas accumulation

Doctors therefore often recommend starting with 2 to 3 grams (0.07 to 0.1 oz) per day in the first 15 days. Then they may suggest you increase gradually between 1 to 2 grams (0.03 to 0.07 oz) per week until reaching a consumption of 10 grams per day (0.3 oz).

People on a diet low in short-chain carbohydrates or FODMAPs, such as fructans or oligosaccharides, should avoid inulin consumption.

Remember that inulin has important benefits, especially in the digestive tract. But it’s also crucial not to overdo it, because any nutrient has its limits. Therefore, you should consult your doctor if you’re going to take it as a supplement.

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