• FOS, Galacto-oligosaccharides, Inulin, GOS, Prebiotics
Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are starches that the human body cannot fully digest. Inulin and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) are similar substances also discussed in this article.
When a person consumes FOS, the undigested portions provide nourishment for bacteria in the digestive tract. “Friendly” bacteria (
Low doses of FOS are often provided along with probiotic supplements to aid their growth. High doses of FOS (and related substances) have been advocated for a variety of health conditions. However, currently, the available scientific evidence for benefit remains more negative than positive.
There is no daily requirement for FOS. FOS and related substances are found in asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions, and soybeans, among other foods.
When taken simply for promoting healthy bacteria, FOS are often taken at a dose of 4-6 g daily. When used for therapeutic purposes, the typical dose of FOS is 10-20 g daily, divided into three doses and taken with meals. Side effects are common at a daily intake 15 g or more (see Safety Issues ).
Animal studies hint that FOS, GOS, and inulin can significantly improve cholesterol
At most, it appears that FOS might improve cholesterol profiles by 5%, an amount too small to make much of a difference in most circumstances. These relatively poor results might be due to that fact that humans cannot tolerate doses of FOS much above 15 g daily without developing gastrointestinal side effects.
FOS has also been suggested for preventing
Another study found that use of FOS might help reduce incidents of diarrhea, flatulence, and vomiting in preschoolers.
FOS have been advocated as a treatment for
Small double-blind studies found that FOS at a dose of 10 g daily may improve
A randomized, placebo-controlled trial, involving 134 infants less than 6 months old whose parents suffered from allergies, found that those fed a prebiotic combination of FOS/GOS experienced a significant reduction in both allergy symptoms and minor infections that lasted at least through age 2. The researchers suggested that the favorable effects of prebiotics on intestinal bacteria early in life may produce lasting benefits to the immune system.
One study found that use of inulin promoted growth of probiotic bacteria in the bifidobacteria family.
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9. Luo J, Van Yperselle M, Rizkalla SW, et al. Chronic consumption of short-chain fructooligosaccharides does not affect basal hepatic glucose production or insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics. J Nutr . 2000;130:1572-1577.
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16. Waligora-Dupriet AJ, Campeotto F, Nicolis I, et al. Effect of oligofructose supplementation on gut microflora and well-being in young children attending a day care centre. Int J Food Microbiol . 2006 Sep 20. [Epub ahead of print]
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Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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