What is chicory root fiber?

Hey everyone,

Following on from my last two posts:

  1. Why prebiotics are the most important nutrient to boost your mood and prevent anxiety and depression.
  2. How much prebiotics to consume per day.

I thought I would dive deeper into some of the different types of prebiotics, and provide guidance around:

  1. Whether they selectively fuel the good bacteria, or simultaneously promote the growth of the good and the bad bacteria in your gut.
  2. How much of the specific type of prebiotic has been shown to be the tolerable daily intake without causing digestive or gastric distress.
  3. How much of the specific prebiotic is actually needed to be consumed in order to gain the health benefit from the prebiotic.
  4. Which foods to include in your diet in order to obtain the variety of prebiotics.

I also thought I would highlight what chicory root fiber is, and whether chicory root fiber is safe, given that it is often found inside lower sugar, higher fiber formulated products.

prebiotic health benefits

Ref: http://www.teknoscienze.com/Contents/Riviste/Sfogliatore/PREBIOTICS-PROBIOTICS_2016/files/assets/basic-html/page8.html

…so lets dive in now!


Types of prebiotics

There are a number of different prebiotic fibres, which predominantly differ based on polymer length.

They all still share the same description of being non-digestible carbohydrates that are able to stimulate the growth of bacteria in the colon, and lead to positive health benefits to us, the host.

Prebiotics can come in the form of oligosaccharides, resistant starches, and disaccharides.


Prebiotic fiber types

Ref: http://scielo.sld.cu/img/revistas/rsa/v33n3/f0401311.gif

For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus in on the the most commonly researched and discussed, the oligosaccharides.

Some of which include:

  • Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)
  • Inulin
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS)
  • Isomolto-oligosaccharides (IMO)
  • Xylo-oligosaccharides (XOS)

Of these, FOS and inulin (which simply differ by polymer lengths) have often been the key focus of many research studies in the area of prebiotics.

Prebiotic fiber chart gut health expert kara landau dietitian

Prebiotic fiber chart


Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and Inulin:

  • Both FOS and inulin are polymers of fructans, which due to the malabsorption in the small intestine, can cause some gas and bloating in those who are sensitive to this (typically individuals that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)). I have written a post around how those that have IBS can gradually incorporate prebiotics into their diet here.
  • The key by-products from FOS fermentation are acetate and lactate, whereas for inulin, it is the highly desirably short chain fatty acid, butyrate.
  • Inulin is often written on product ingredients lists as chicory root fiber.

How much FOS do you need to consume for health benefits?

  • The dose of FOS required to significantly increase Bifidobacterium counts in the human gut is typically in the range of 10 to 20 g/day.
  • It should be noted that FOS is able to be utilised by some of the pathogenic strains of bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella, leading to the growth of both the good, and the bad bacteria within the colon.
  • For people with Type II Diabetes Mellitus, consuming 8g of FOS per day, for more than 14 days, has been shown to assist with blood glucose regulation.
  • In some studies, FOS has shown to be successful in helping regulate appetite hormones, and assist weight management as a result. Dosage requirements have varied, with ranges between 8-24g being utilised with varying degrees of success.


Slim secrets bare bar prebiotic fiber kara landau travelling dietitian gut health expert

Slim Secrets Bare Bars are a great example of a food product that contain FOS / oligosaccharides.

oligofructose FOS in protein bar

oligofructose / FOS prebiotic fibre inside slim secrets bare bar


How much Inulin do you need to consume to consume for health benefits?

  • The dose of inulin required to significantly increase Bifidobacterium counts in the human gut is typically 15g /day or higher.
  • Some studies have also shown that inulin is not able to be utilised by many of the bifidobacteria strains.
  • It has been shown that when inulin is coming from natural food sources, doses above 10 g/day are generally not so well tolerated in healthy young adults, leading to gastric side effects.
  • When inulin is consumed as an oligo-fructose, well tolerated levels drop to approximately 5g / day.
  • As with all prebiotics the duration of intake also affects the dose-response, with longer-term intake leading to a lower daily dose requirement, and more well tolerated results.
  • You will see the words chicory root fiber on many formulated health products, in place of the word inulin, due to this being the source of the prebiotic inulin.
chicory root fiber in chobani yoghurt

Chicory root fiber / inulin can be found in many yoghurts that want to promote higher fiber and lower added sugar contents.


Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS):

  • GOS fuels both the good, and the bad bacteria in the colon, which may explain some of the negative side effects that are associated with its consumption.
  • GOS has however been shown to significantly enhance bifidobacteria production in some IBS sufferers at low levels of 3.5 g/day and 7 g/day.
  • GOS at 3.5 g/day also significantly changed stool consistency, improved flatulence and bloating, and at 7 g/day, significantly improved anxiety scores.
  • Maximum daily dosages without negative side effects have been suggested to be below 0.6-0.8g/kg of body weight / day (which is higher than FOS, but lower than IMO).
GOS and resistant starch food list

GOS and resistant starch table.

  • GOS can also be found in foods such as green peas, chickpeas and kidney beans;
  • With a half cup serving of these foods providing approximately  6-7g of prebiotic fiber, of which 3-4g are from GOS.


Isomolto-oligosacchaide (IMO):

  • Often found inside formulated high protein / low sugar bars, IMO is partially digested, leading to a higher tolerability in humans than some of the other prebiotics.
  • IMO increases the proportion of both beneficial bacteria, bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, in human studies.
  • Significant reductions in serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels and increased HDL-cholesterol levels following daily consumption of 30 g of an IMO mixture compared to pre-treatment values have been seen in a human study.
  • Consumption patterns of between 10-30g per day in some studies have shown some initial increases in flatulence, however no severe discomfort has been been reported. For many, the initial increase in flatulence is only temporary and subsides as time goes on;
  • This suggests that as your microflora population adapts to the amount of undigested material passing into the colon, tolerability enhances, leading to gut health benefits being attained in the long run without discomfort.
  • It is estimated that the tolerable intake of IMO without negative side effects is 26.3g / day.
IMO prebiotic VitaFiber prebiotic Kara landau travelling dietitian

IMO prebiotic – VitaFiber commercial prebiotic available to consumers (in organic tapioca, non GMO tapioca, and non GMO corn varieties)


Xylo-oligosaccharides (XOS):

  • Very small intakes of XOS, as low as 1.5g / day, have been shown to bring about positive bifidogenic effects.
  • Some studies with XOS have also shown beneficial impacts upon lipid profiles and blood glucose at similar doses.
  • XOS is one of the most selective prebiotics, being able to fuel only the good bifidobacteria, and not supply the bad bacteria with energy.
  • XOS is a newer prebiotic being produced and utilised in the food supply;
  • Given the low dose requirements to bring about beneficial health effects, it is likely that we will see more of this as developments in the industry take place.
XOS prebiotic food industry kara landau

XOS formation in the food industry.
Ref: http://www.lignofood.eu/lignofood.html

As you can see, prebiotics come in different forms (and this list was not exhaustive), and at varying levels of the different types it is projected that we will be able to tolerate their intake without gastric distress, and obtain the benefits they can provide.

Each of us will have slight variations in tolerance, and for this reason, testing out different sources, at varying volumes, will be the best option to take when it comes to finding a prebiotic source that works for you.

As tolerance builds up, aiming to obtain around 20g in total per day, would be recommended.

In my next post I will share information on current vs past consumption levels of prebiotics, and delve deeper into the amounts you can find inside different foods!

If these topics are of interest, dont forget to sign up for the blog so that you get an update as soon as they the next post is live!

Until next time,

TD x



About The Author

Kara Landau aka "Travelling Dietitian" is an Australian Accredited Practicing Dietitian based in NYC. She is a world explorer, healthy foodie, social butterfly, barre and HIIT class lover. When she isn't trying new cuisines, researching new product innovations in the health food space, or speaking to the media on behalf of her food industry clients, she can be found quietly conjuring up her next idea on how to make this world a healthier and better place.