Inulin is vegetable starch, (C6H10O5), an indigestible polysaccharide occurring in the rhizome of certain plants (Compositae). It is a polymer of fructofuranose, yields fructose on hydrolysis, and is used in a test for determining glomerular filtration rate. Inulin is major constituent of some of the most famous of the “old-standby” herbs, such as burdock root, dandelion root, elecampane root, chicory root, and the Chinese herb codonopsis. Botanically, inulin is a storage food in the plants of the Composite family. Inulin when injected interacts with complement system, which has resulted in rumors in herbal circles that it is immunostimulant. It is not digested or absorbed, however, (except perhaps in mico-amounts) and such effects are not observed with oral use.
Inulin is recommended sometimes for diabetics; it has a mildly sweet taste, and is filling like starchy foods, but because it is not absorbed, it does not affect blood sugar levels. Despite the similarity of its name to insulin, inulin has no connection with that hormone either chemically or through physiological activity. Inulin is soluble in hot water, but only slightly soluble in cold water or alcohol, so is not present to any significant extent in tinctures. All the above herbs have traditionally been taken in decoctions, and in this form may deliver significant amounts of inulin.
Inulin is a storage carbohydrate, a nondigestible relative of starch. Starch is a polymer of glucose while inulin is a polymer of a relative of fructose, fructofuranosan. Although indigestible by our human enzymes, inulin can be partly digested by intestinal bacteria to form FructoOligoSaccharides, or FOS, which stimulates the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This hinders the growth of harmful bacteria and thus prevents some common digestive ailments. Used in low-fat yogurt, inulin acts as a fat replacement to improve the taste and mouth feel of the product and as a bonus has favorable effects on digestive health. In clinical trials with infants and children, inulin in yogurt was shown to decrease the severity of diarrhea and reduce the incidence of vomiting and "spitting up." Several animal studies have shown that the friendly bacteria in yogurt combined with inulin protects against the formation of precancerous lesions in the colon better than either alone.
Inulin has a mildly sweet taste and is filling like starchy foods although it is not absorbed. Foods with inulin are often recommended for diabetics because it has a glycemic index of zero and so does not affect blood-sugar levels.
Synonyms: plant starch
Molecular formula: (C6H10O5)N
CAS No: 9005-80-5