β-fructans are a type of soluble dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables, the researchers explained.
Linear long-chain fructans are mostly extracted from chicory roots, while oligomeric fructans (also known as oligofructose or fructo-oligosaccharides) are often obtained from the hydrolysis of inulin from beet or sugar cane-derived sucrose.
This new study was published last week in the journal Nutrients. Its authors were researchers from the research and development department of Tereos SA, a French food ingredients manufacturer that also funded the study.
“[β-fructans’] efficacy on bowel function has been studied in humans and acknowledged by several health authorities,” the authors argued. “However, it has not been clearly systematically reviewed for all combined β-fructans, including short and long-chain molecules, neither for short-chain β-fructans only.”
After analyzing 47 peer-reviewed studies and two unpublished studies on β-fructans, the research group reported that there is mounting evidence supporting the ingredient’s positive effect on bowel function “by significantly increasing the frequency of bowel movements.”
“When the intake of dietary fiber is insufficient, the consumption of foods containing β-fructans…is a practical strategy that contributes to a significant increase of frequency of bowel movements with additional softening of stool consistency, probably by increasing the wet weight,” they added.
Most of the studies included were conducted in healthy humans, while some were performed in constibated people, as well as people with IBS, IBD, or Crohn’s disease.
They found that the increase of bowel movement frequency was mostly experienced in short-chain-β-fructans ingestion compared to long-chain β-fructans.
All β-fructans combined yielded a significant positive impact on stool consistency.
“The effect was even more outspoken with a [degree of polymerization] value below 10,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, only one study applied a [degree of polymerization] value higher than 10, therefore no conclusions on the length of the polymer on this particular efficacy could be investigated,” they added.
Researchers pored through studies and included in their review those that were conducted in a human population aged older than three-years.
Eligibility for inclusion included studies where β-fructans were tested as a single supplementary ingredient in a product or dietary supplement; had relevant outcome measurements of bowel function, including frequency and stool consistency; and was published in English.
They conducted the search on research databases PubMed (maintained by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health) and EUPMC.
Published online, doi:10.3390/nu11010091
“Effects of β-Fructans Fiber on Bowel Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”
Authors: Jan de Vries, et al.