Last spring, the European Commission authorized an Article 13.5 health claim linking chicory-root-fiber ingredients inulin and oligofructose with improved blood glucose levels. Now, the scientific study on which the health claim petition was based has been published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
The premise of the Article 13.5 health claim is that when replacing at least 30% of the sugar content in foods and beverages, chicory root fiber can help lower the consumer’s postprandial blood glucose response. Companies can use the health claim, “Consumption of food/drinks containing chicory root fiber/inulin/oligofructose instead of sugars induces a lower blood glucose rise after their consumption compared to sugar-containing foods/drinks.”
The European Journal of Nutrition randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study was conducted in two parts in 40-42 healthy adult subjects. One study tested the effect on blood glucose and insulin response after subjects consumed a 250-g yogurt drink in which 20% of the sucrose was replaced with oligofructose. The second study tested the effect on blood glucose and insulin response after subjects consumed a 110-g serving of fruit jelly in which 30% of the sucrose was replaced by inulin. In both studies, placebo subjects were given full-sugar versions of the same foods.
In the yogurt/oligofructose trial, test subjects experienced a 14% reduction in blood glucose response and a 17% reduction in insulin response compared to placebo. In the fruit jelly/inulin trial, test subjects experienced a 16% reduction in blood glucose response and a 40% decrease in insulin response.
Three of the industry’s leading chicory-root-fiber suppliers—Beneo (Mannheim, Germany), Cosucra (Warcoing, Belgium), and Sensus (Roosendaal, The Netherlands)—sponsored the study and submitted the EU health claim petition.
According to a press release by Beneo, “correlation analysis of the data also highlighted the more sugar that is replaced with chicory root fiber, the lower the blood glucose response will be. The linear slope suggests this effect can be seen with less than the 20% of sugar replacement, which is the lowest level that was experimentally tested.”
The study was conducted by researchers from Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, UK. The authors posited, “Lowering the blood glucose response to food products with chicory inulin or oligofructose, instead of sugars, could contribute to prevention and reduction the risk of chronic metabolic diseases. With the suitable properties of oligofructose and inulin as sugar replacers in food products, this could be achieved without compromise in taste and sensory qualities, which is essential for the acceptance of such food products by consumers in their everyday life.”
As Beneo explains, chicory root fibers like inulin and oligofructose “are not digested by human enzymes, making them unavailable for glucose release into the blood stream, ensuring that their consumption does not raise blood glucose levels.” Chicory root fibers serve dual purposes: in addition to lowering blood glucose response, they are prebiotic and a source of dietary fiber. They make good sugar replacers because they have a sweet taste.
Lightowler H et al., “Replacement of glycaemic carbohydrates by inulin-type fructans from chicory (oligofructose, inulin) reduces the postprandial blood glucose and insulin response to foods: report of two double-blind, randomized, controlled trials,” European Journal of Nutrition. Published online March 3, 2017.