Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Non-digestible oligosaccharides

Non-digestible oligosaccharides (NDO) are intermediate in nature between simple sugars and polysaccharides and are claimed to behave as dietary fibres and prebiotics. NDOs are the topic of a project which is addressing the issue: can NDOs be used as functional foods'. NDOs are frequently referred to as oligofructose and are hydrolytic products of inulin, the so-called 'fructose starch', which is found widely in plants and particularly in the Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root and related species. Claims made for inulin and oligofructose include their ability to act as a dietary fibre and as bifidus (ie bifidobacteria) promoters. Both inulin and oligofructose are only hydrolysed to a negligible degree during passage through the human mouth, stomach and small intestine. As a consequence neither has an influence on blood glucose levels which means they can be used in the diet of diabetics. Inulin and oligofructose are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine and considerably increase the proportion of bifidobacteria in the intestinal flora; it is claimed that bifidobacteria have a number of beneficial effects including the inhibition of harmful bacteria in the gut, the stimulation of the host's immune system, the enhanced absorption of various cations, and the synthesis of certain B vitamins. These and other aspects and their possible benefits to both industry and the consumer, are being investigated in the ongoing project.

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