Inulin and oligofructose have moved into the mainstream of functional ingredients and now consumer education must intensify. That was the message of the opening presentations of the 5th ORAFTI Research Conference in the Harvard Medical School, Boston. The meeting was organized to provide a forum for scientists to discuss the latest evidence on the health benefits of inulin and oligofructose. Dr Johanna Dwyer DSc, Senior Nutrition Scientist at the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health set a challenge to researchers, saying that consumers want clear information on the doses of oligofructose and inulin that produce beneficial effects.
The following speakers responded with new cutting edge research on how oligofructose and inulin consumption delivers proven health benefits in many areas.
Gut health is increasingly recognized by consumers as an important factor in well-being. Referred to as the ‘Second Brain’, the large intestine plays a central role in maintaining the body’s defenses against harmful bacteria and viruses. It may also help in the control of energy intake, and in the metabolism of fat and glucose. Work from the laboratory of Professor Delzenne (Brussels) showed that feeding Beneo™ oligofructose to obese rats stimulates a series of complex signals from the gut that helps in the control of food intake and body weight. Reductions in harmful blood fats, such as triglycerides, and improvements in glucose control were also seen after oligofructose supplementation. Preliminary human trials showed similar effects on food intake and satiety.
Leading US pediatrician, Professor Steve Abrams, noted that increased calcium alone would not fix the major problem of osteoporosis and bone fragility in Western countries. He went on to present data in children showing that supplementation with Beneo™Synergy1 not only increased calcium absorption but delivered greater bone mineral density. This is a key step in improving bone health, suggested Professor Kevin Cashman (University College Cork, Ireland). Osteoporosis is now seen as a pediatric condition that demands intervention from early childhood to ensure an optimal peak bone mass. Yet this does not ignore the problem of bone fragility in later life. Using a rat model of the post-menopause phase, Dr Katharina Scholz-Ahrens (Kiel, Germany) demonstrated increased calcium absorption and bone mineral density using prebiotics. The best result was seen with Beneo™Synergy1.
Other speakers demonstrated how inulin and oligofructose could benefit consumers from birth to old age. Pediatric gastroenterologist Dr Gigi Veereman (Belgium), presented data from a number of studies showing that supplementation with inulin and oligofructose reduces the risk of infant
diarrhea, constipation and gut infections by boosting levels of natural friendly bacteria. Other speakers suggested that the current rise in immune-related chronic conditions, such as allergy, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease could be a consequence of prebiotic deficiency in Western diets. Certainly, data from the lab of German nutritionist, Dr Bernhard Watzl, have shown that the immune system can be optimized by dietary supplementation with Beneo™Synergy1. This has implications later in life for prevention of colorectal cancer, a disease with its origins in the interaction between diet and immune function. A new study on this is underway, directed by Dr Asad Umar from the US National Cancer Institute. Patients at risk from colorectal cancer will be supplemented with Beneo™Synergy1 for 6 months. If the animal research proves correct, we should expect to see an improvement in cancer risk biomarkers due to rebalancing of gut bacteria and correction of immune dysfunction.
Joint-Chairman of the conference, Professor Allan Walker of Harvard Medical Schools, said: “Today’s consumers are looking for foods and ingredients that offer proven health benefits. The best ways to deliver this is through scientific collaboration and communicating evidence-based health claims. We cannot delay in either of these tasks because consumers are quite capable of using the Internet to find what they need. Yet, we know that the quality of information on the net can be poor. This is why the 5th ORAFTI Research Conference is so important. Here we have a forum for the leading scientists involved in inulin and oligofructose, and the chance to communicate the evidence on health benefits to a wider audience”.
Dr Anne Franck, ORAFTI's Executive Vice President of Science and Technology, commented: "Since our last conference in 2004, a great deal of progress has been made in the research into inulin and oligofructose. The health benefits for a number of conditions are now clear while, in other areas such as immune regulation and cancer, we are embarking upon an exciting phase that builds upon the promise of early research. There will be challenges in developing appropriate claims that are understood by the consumer but I am sure that these will be met by the combination of scientific endeavour, seen at this conference, and the commitment of ORAFTI to the exciting field of research into oligofructose and inulin”.
About ORAFTI Group
ORAFTI Group is a subsidiary of the Belgian agro-food group Raffinerie Tirlemontoise/Tiense Suikerraffinaderij, and is part of the ORAFTI/PALATINIT ingredients unit of the Südzucker Group. ORAFTI Group produces Beneo™ inulin and oligofructose from chicory roots for human and animal nutrition. ORAFTI Group's head office is in Tienen, Belgium and the company operates in more than 75 countries, with production units in Oreye (Belgium), Pemuco (Chile), Wijchen (The Netherlands) and Wijgmaal (Belgium). The ORAFTI Group also includes REMY INDUSTRIES, world leading producer of rice-based ingredients.
For more scientific information, please contact:
Dr Anne Franck
Executive Vice President Science and Technology
Tel: +32 16 801 301
Fax: +32 16 801 308
E-mail : [email protected]