The Inulin molecule in 3-D

The carbohydrate Inulin molecule - rotatable in 3 dimensions

Inulin - not to be confused with the protein hormone insulin - is a rather variable polysaccharide built up mainly from the monosaccharide fructose, so it is sometimes known as a fructan. It is more soluble than glucose polymers: starch, glycogen etc.

Inulin is a storage carbohydrate produced by many plants which may be considered as a component of dietary fibre. It is not digested in the first sections of the human digestive system, but in the intestine it may be digested by certain types of 'beneficial' bacteria - bifidobacteria and lactobacilli - which increase in number. It apparently increases calcium and possibly magnesium absorption. It is thus considered as a helpful component of functional foods - a prebiotic. It may be formulated for use as a food additive.

On account of its fairly inert nature and solubility, inulin is sometimes used medically as a marker to measure kidney function by determining the glomerular filtration rate (GFR).

The molecule displayed here consists of six beta (β)-fructose residues linked by β(2,1) glycosidic bonds, terminated by another β(2,1) link to a single α-glucose residue . In that it has less than 10 fructose residues it may rather be described as an oligofructose.

Label/ Unlabel atoms

Web references

Inulin From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Inulin and oligofructose: what are they? 1999 Journal of Nutrition

Inulin, a flexible oligosaccharide I: Review of its physicochemical characteristics

Ultimate FAQ Guide to Inulin: 90+ Questions 'dedicated to how, what, when, why, where, which, who and many more' - put together by Colin Leadbetter, the owner of Supplement Place, a small family run supplements business in Dorset.