Inulin and Oligofructose Among the First Accepted Prebiotics by the Chinese Nutrition Society

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The Chinese Nutrition Society (CNS), China’s largest professional nutrition body, has concluded that inulin and oligofructose are among the first accepted prebiotics. The recognition includes BENEO’s functional fibres derived from chicory root and is a result of the premier prebiotic scientific consensus statement in China announced recently. The statement defines prebiotics and its criteria for ingredients classification[1].

According to CNS, prebiotics are defined as “food ingredients that cannot be digested or absorbed by human body but can be selectively utilised by human microorganisms and can improve the composition and/or activity of gut microorganisms so as to benefit human health”. Based on the consensus, only three food ingredients are considered prebiotics, underpinned by high levels of evidence. These include inulin, oligofructose, and galacto-oligosaccharides. Among the three, oligofructose and inulin are the only proven plant-based prebiotics as they are extracted from chicory roots using hot water.

The consensus is an important step to provide clarity around the definition and standards for scientifically proven prebiotics. It gives guidance for food manufacturers developing products with prebiotics that have the necessary scientific evidence available. It also supports ingredient manufacturers on the necessities to be classified as a prebiotic. Consumers, nutritionists, and clinicians will also benefit from the establishment of this list of scientifically evaluated prebiotics, as they can make more informed decisions and recommendations for food products.

This is particularly relevant in China, where 94% of consumers who have heard about prebiotics say that it has an influence on their purchasing behaviour, and close to half associate them with digestive health. It was also found that a quarter of Chinese consumers seek out prebiotics when buying food and drink products.

“The prebiotic scientific consensus statement developed and published by the Chinese Nutrition Society is a great step forward in bringing clarity to the definition and criteria for classifying ingredients as a prebiotic”, said Anke Sentko, Vice President Regulatory Affairs and Nutrition Communication at BENEO. “We are pleased that inulin and oligofructose are successfully evaluated by the Chinese Nutrition Society and are now recognised prebiotics. This supports food and drink manufacturers in making better choices for proven ingredients, including BENEO’s chicory root fibres”.

The acceptance of inulin and oligofructose by the CNS is based on an initiative driven by a dedicated group of local experts under its new “Probiotics, Prebiotics and Health” branch. Inulin and oligofructose belong also to the few internationally recognised and confirmed prebiotics, according to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Prebiotic chicory root fibres are important nutrients to include in our diet. Even though all dietary fibres are non-digestible, prebiotic fibres differ in the way they function in the gut. The fermentation of such prebiotic fibres leads to a selective increase of healthy microbiota which in turn positively influences human health.