Oligofructose

Oligofructose is a mildly sweet carbohydrate that has beneficial properties if consumed in moderate amounts.

It is not to be confused with ordinary fructose, it does not have the common problems associated with the consumption of that carbohydrate. Despite this, it is actually made up of molecules of fructose bound by indigestible linkages. These linkages are resistant to salivary and intestinal digestive enzymes so the fructose is unavailable as an energy source in the normal way.

It is classified as a fiber because it passes through the upper digestive tract without being metabolized. It is a soluble fiber as opposed to a cellulose fiber (Whole grains etc). It is found in root vegetables.

It has a good taste but only moderate sweetness, less than half that of sugar. It is not really of any use as a sweetener on it's own, but because of it's unique properties it is often used in combination with other sweeteners.

Benefits:
It has less one third the calories of sugar. It has a zero glycemic index and is suitable for diabetics. It adds fiber to the diet. It is prebiotic and has been shown to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria on the colon. It has also been show to assist the body's ability to absorb minerals from food.

Very detailed scientific information is available in the JN Journal of Nutrition which discusses the uses and health benefits of this substance as well as Inulin.

Concerns:
Like Inulin it has a slightly laxative effect. The body treats Oligofructose as a fiber, this can have beneficial effects but can cause cramps etc if consumed to excess. Probably best not to consume more than 30 gm per day. For this reason it is a good idea to be aware of its presence in precessed foods and 'health foods'.

Certain people suffer from a mild form of Fructose Intolerance. Because Oligofructose is composed of Fructose molecules, it also falls into this category. Symptoms are not too severe, but can be similar to those suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Safety Guidelines:
No specific ADI is recommended by the FDA. Moderation is recommended, though over time the body habituates to use and the amount can be safely increased.

CSPI (US) Recommendation

The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is - SAFE

Production: 
It is an natural product found in root vegetables.

Sold As:
Difficult to get on its own. Sweet Perfection sell a product and ChocoPerfection use it to sweeten a bar. Often added to sweeteners, processed foods or health foods.

How Expensive?
It is very expensive. On the bulk market it is about  six times the price of sugar by weight. 

Market Share:
Tiny market share globally but growing due to it's health benefits and other properties.

Interesting facts:
It is often found with two other prebiotics: Fructooligosaccharide and Inulin. These three fructans are composed of fructose molecules bound with indigestible glycosidic linkages.

Inulin has the longest molecular structure, next is oligofructose. Fructooligosaccharide has the shortest chain length and is the sweetest of the three. All these carbohydrates are soluble fibers meaning that they dissolve in water. They travel through the body undigested until they reach the colon. Here they undergo fermentation and this has a major effect on bacteria in the gut. It tends to promote beneficial bacteria but it also produces gas and can lead to flatulence. However, the body gradually adapts, and with long term use the benefits persist, but the undesirable side effects are reduced.

Good sources are Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, Leek, Asparagus and Onion.

Approval:
Approved by the FDA as GRAS. Approved in most countries.



  

Conclusions for Oligofructose

Not much use as a sweetener on its own, but it is becoming more common as an ingredient in processed foods and health foods, yoghurts etc. It has many beneficial effects, however excessive consumption can lead to problems. Best to limit consumption to 30gm per day.

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Oligofructose 1.5 0.4 0 15

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- No.
Concerns: ----- No major.




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