The Prebiotic Potential of Inulin-Type Fructans: A Systematic Review

Riley L. Hughes, David A. Alvarado, Kelly S. Swanson, Hannah D. Holscher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Inulin-Type fructans (ITF), including short-chain fructooligosaccharides (scFOS), oligofructose, and inulin, are commonly used fibers that are widely regarded as prebiotic for their ability to be selectively utilized by the intestinal microbiota to confer a health benefit. However, to our knowledge the literature thus far lacks a thorough discussion of the evidence from human clinical trials for the prebiotic effect of ITF, including beneficial effects on intestinal microbiota composition and intestinal and extraintestinal processes (e.g., glucose homeostasis, lipids, mineral absorption and bone health, appetite and satiety, inflammation and immune function, and body composition). Additionally, there has been a lack of discussion regarding aspects such as the effect of ITF chain length on its intestinal and extraintestinal effects. The overall objective of this systematic review was to summarize the prebiotic potential of ITF based on the results of human clinical trials in healthy adult populations. Evidence from studies included in the current review suggest that ITF have a prebiotic effect on the intestinal microbiota, promoting the abundances of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. Beneficial health effects reported following ITF intake include improved intestinal barrier function, improved laxation, increased insulin sensitivity, decreased triglycerides and an improved lipid profile, increased absorption of calcium and magnesium, and increased satiety. Although there is some evidence for differing effects of ITF based on chain length, the lack of direct comparisons and detailed descriptions of physicochemical properties limits the ability to draw conclusions from human clinical studies. Future research should focus on elucidating the mechanisms by which the intestinal microbiota mediates or modifies the effects of ITF on human health and the contribution of individual factors such as age and metabolic health to the movement toward personalization of prebiotic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-529
Number of pages38
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • clinical studies
  • fructooligosaccharides
  • gut microbiota
  • human health
  • inulin-Type fructans
  • oligofructose
  • prebiotic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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