Chicory inulin given to kindergarten children results in improved digestive health, fewer infections

July 26, 2018

Adding to an already large amount of research on prebiotic fibers, Hungarian researchers just completed a study on prebiotic use in children ages 3 to 6.

Adding to an already large amount of research on prebiotic fibers, Hungarian researchers just completed a study on prebiotic use in children ages 3 to 6.1 It could strengthen the case for giving prebiotic supplements to young children.

Prebiotic fibers are already plentiful in the global marketplace. They’re marketed for the elderly, adults, children, and even in infant formulas. But the supporting research is as varied as the market base. In order the close the gap, Beneo GmbH (Mannheim, Germany) funded a study on its chicory root fiber used in a kindergarten setting.

Beneo is a manufacturer of numerous functional fibers, including Orafi inulin from chicory root. Orafti was the active ingredient in this study.

With their still-developing immune systems, children in the kindergarten age range commonly experience diarrhea, fever, and other immune health problems. Adding prebiotics to their diet, therefore, makes some sense. These ingredients have already shown plenty of promise when used in infant formulas for similar reasons.

Over the six-month course of one autumn and winter, physicians assigned nearly 300 children to a daily dose of chicory root fiber or maltodextrin placebo mixed with their food or drink. It was a modest dose of 6 g.  With the coordinated supervision of physicians and parents, 209 children finished the study, which included stool assessments, physician visits and assessment for fever, and records of any sickness requiring medical attention.

When all was said and done, the researchers say chicory root inulin was associated with softer stools, higher counts of beneficial bacteria (Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) in stools, and fewer fevers requiring medical attention.

A total of 142 boys and 128 girls finished the study, and the active ingredient appeared to be well tolerated. Some positive associations with the active ingredient did not appear until several months into the study.

“Infant studies have already showed that prebiotics of non-milk origin can mimic the prebiotic effect of breastfeeding and, consequently, have positive effects on the postnatal development of the immune system,” wrote the lead researcher, adding that studies on slightly older children also support the idea that prebiotics can benefit immune health and digestion.

If research continues to confirm Orafti’s potential to improve children’s health, it could mean wider applications for the ingredient in manufactured foods and even food at home or in school. Inulin is relatively easy to incorporate into a variety of palatable manufactured and fresh foods and drinks.

References:

  1. Lohner S et al. “Inulin-type fructan supplementation of 3 to 6 year-old children is associated with higher fecal Bifidobacterium concentrations and fewer febrile episodes requiring medical attention.” The Journal of Nutrition. Published online ahead of print July 3, 2018.