Digestion studies filling up scientific literature

by Jeff Gelski
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Beneo fiber bars
Bars are one way to incorporate inulin from chicory root.

KANSAS CITY — Scientific studies backing the digestive health benefits of such ingredients as inulin and resistant starch continue accumulating, which should help the ingredients qualify for a Food and Drug Administration fiber definition.

The F.D.A. in the May 27, 2016, issue of the Federal Register presented a fiber definition that includes naturally occurring fibers and only fibers added to food that show a physiological health benefit, which would include digestion.

Inulin companies Beneo, Cosucra Groupe Warcoing S.A. and Sensus B.V. submitted a citizen petition on Sept. 12, 2016, that asked the F.D.A. to include inulin-type fructans in the definition. Also, two studies published last year in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition pointed to the digestive benefits of Orafti inulin from Beneo.

A study published on-line Aug. 5, 2016, examined Orafti inulin’s effect on stool frequency in 44 subjects of the ages 20 to 75 with constipation. People were given either inulin or maltodextrin, which was a placebo, in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over design.

The study demonstrated Orafti inulin was effective in people with chronic constipation. The researchers documented a significant increase of stool frequency accompanied by a softening of stool consistency that had a positive impact on the quality of life.

Beneo GmbH, Mannheim, Germany, a member of the Südzucker Group, funded the study, which involved researchers from the Beneo/Südzucker Group and BioTeSys GmbH, Esslingen, Germany.

A study that appeared on-line Dec. 8, 2016, involved 17 constipated children of the ages 2-5. They were given either inulin-type fructans or maltodextrin, which was a placebo, in the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled parallel group trial.

The researchers said supplementing the diet with a low dose of inulin-type fructans seemed to be promising for treating functional constipation in young children. The effectiveness of prebiotic fibers such as inulin-type fructans is due to their ability to resist digestion and reach the large intestine, where they are fermented by the gut microbiota, leading to a selective increase of beneficial bacteria.

While a number of scientific studies have shown the positive effects of prebiotic fibers such as inulin and oligofructose in infants and small children up to 2 years of age, previously information was limited on the effects in children of the ages 2-5, according to Beneo.

Researchers in the study were from Beneo GmbH; Hospital Universitari Joan XXIII de Tarragona in Tarragona, Spain; the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Reus, Spain; and Hospital Universitari St. Joan de Reus in Reus.

“Digestive health matters at every age,” said Anke Sentko, vice-president of regulatory affairs and nutrition communication at Beneo. “The two recent high quality human intervention studies show once again that Beneo’s prebiotic chicory root fibers effectively support digestive health in children and adults.

“Chicory root fibers, inulin and oligofructose, are the best studied prebiotic fibers. They support regularity as well as well-being, therefore meeting consumers’ needs and making them an important area of focus for many food and drink manufacturers.”

Inulin encompasses fructans of varying chain lengths. Shorter-chain inulin tends to be sweeter than longer-chain inulin, which is beneficial in sugar reduction, but the chain length does not appear to matter when it comes to digestive benefits.

“There has been a great deal of research conducted in the area of digestive health and prebiotic effect with chicory root fiber,” said Scott Turowski, technical sales manager for Sensus America, Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J. “A review of this research has shown the benefits in this area to be independent of chain length, with no groups of chain length standing out as more effective.”

The type of application, such as bars or yogurt, does not appear to matter either.

“There hasn’t been any indication that the digestive health benefits attributed to inulin are affected by the type of application that chicory root fiber is used in,” Mr. Turowski said.

Sensus offers Frutafit inulin and Frutalose oligofructose. Cargill, Minneapolis, which offers Oliggo-Fiber inulin products, points to studies showing chicory inulin and oligofructose increase stool frequency, have a fecal bulking effect and may help maintain regularity.

Suppliers of fructooligosaccharides, xylooligosaccharides and resistant starch also point to digestive health benefits.

Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., recently developed Nutraflora L95-S soluble prebiotic fiber especially for bars, beverages and other applications where liquid formats are preferred to a powdered version, said Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager, nutrition, for Ingredion. It also may be used in the same applications as Nutraflora P95 prebiotic fiber (the powdered version).

“It has the same functionality and benefits as the powdered version, including a clean, slightly sweet taste (30% that of sugar) that closely resembles sucrose in character,” Mr. Luchsinger said.

Ingredion promotes the digestive benefits of its Nutraflora fructooligosaccharides (scFOS). More than 30 human studies and several in vitro studies demonstrate the beneficial effects of scFOS on the digestive health of humans, he said. The science demonstrates how beneficial strains of bacteria, particularly Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli species, have been shown to ferment Nutraflora prebiotic fiber.

Nutraflora is derived from non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. sucrose (cane sugar).

A study appearing in the June 30, 2016, issue of Scientific Reports showed how consuming a certain type of resistant starch was beneficial to 20 people with metabolic syndrome. Researchers from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., conducted the study on resistant starch type 4 known as RS4, a non-digestible chemically modified wheat fiber.

Because it is not broken down in the upper gastrointestinal tract, RS4 is fermented by the gut bacteria in the colon, said Moul Dey, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Health and Nutritional Sciences at South Dakota State University. This produces new substances, such as short-chain fatty acids, that have functions related to health.

MGP Ingredients, Atchison, Kas., the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture supported the study. MGPI offers Fibersym RW, an RS4.

A 2014 study at the University of California – Los Angeles evaluated the efficacy and dose levels of PrecticX, a non-digestible xylooligosaccharide produced by a patented process. In the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 32 healthy adults received 1 gram or 2 grams of PrecticX or a placebo in daily doses for eight weeks. In the group of people consuming 2 grams of PrecticX daily, counts of beneficial Bifidobacterium increased 21% from the baseline at four weeks and 17% from the baseline at eight weeks.

PrecticX from AIDP Inc., City of Industry, Calif., has been shown to work in bars, ready-to-mix powders and ready-to-drink beverages as well as tablets, capsules, chews and gummies.

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