Food additive may cause stomach ache
Stealth fiber increasingly added to processed foods can cause gastrointestinal discomfort for some who may not know they're consuming too much of it.
Normal fiber foods like wheat bran and legumes are self-limiting, it's hard to over eat them. But, inulin added in chocolate bars, drinks, and snacks around the house, which are usually overeaten than can be tolerated and can cause gastrointestinal issues.
Inulin is a carbohydrate fiber that occurs naturally in many foods like bananas, wheat, onions and garlic. Found in high concentrations in chicory root, is can be extracted for industrial use. Unlike more familiar carbohydrates, which are broken down in the small intestines and turned into fuel for the body, inulin passes through the small intestines to the colon where it stimulates the growth of good bacteria" and is fermented by bacteria. In some people it can cause gas, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhoea.
Because of its growing popularity as a food additive, researchers from Minnesota assessed how much inulin takes to cause gastrointestinal problems.
They designed a study involving 26 healthy men and women aged 18 to 60 years. After a night of fasting, once a week for five weeks, participants were fed a breakfast of a bagel (a bread product) with cream cheese and orange juice. The orange juice was mixed with a placebo or with 5- or 10-gram doses of two commonly used inulin products - native inulin and shorter-chain oligofructose.
After their fiber challenge, participants were called several times over two days and asked about symptoms such as gas/bloating, nausea, flatulence, stomach cramping, diarrhoea, constipation and GI rumbling. Those that got any dose of inulin generally reported mild symptoms; the highest scores in every symptom except constipation were reported by those who got 10 grams of oligofructose.
The researchers concluded that most healthy people can tolerate up to 10 grams of native inulin and 5 grams of the sweet inulin a day.
Inulin can be found in high fiber breakfast bars, ice creams, and beverages among other processed foods. The label may list inulin, chicory root extract, oligosaccharide, or oligofructose.
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