British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers


A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study to establish the bifidogenic effect of a very-long-chain inulin extracted from globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) in healthy human subjects

Adele Costabilea1 c1, Sofia Kolidaa1, Annett Klindera1, Eva Gietla2, Michael Bäuerleina3, Claus Frohberga2, Volker Landschützea2 and Glenn R. Gibsona1

a1 Food Microbial Sciences, School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK

a2 Bayer BioScience GmbH, Hermannswerder 20a, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

a3 Bayer Cropscience AG, Alfred-Nobel-Strasse 50, 40789 Monheim, Germany


There is growing interest in the use of inulins as substrates for the selective growth of beneficial gut bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli because recent studies have established that their prebiotic effect is linked to several health benefits. In the present study, the impact of a very-long-chain inulin (VLCI), derived from globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus), on the human intestinal microbiota compared with maltodextrin was determined. A double-blind, cross-over study was carried out in thirty-two healthy adults who were randomised into two groups and consumed 10 g/d of either VLCI or maltodextrin, for two 3-week study periods, separated by a 3-week washout period. Numbers of faecal bifidobacteria and lactobacilli were significantly higher upon VLCI ingestion compared with the placebo. Additionally, levels of Atopobium group significantly increased, while BacteroidesPrevotella numbers were significantly reduced. No significant changes in faecal SCFA concentrations were observed. There were no adverse gastrointestinal symptoms apart from a significant increase in mild and moderate bloating upon VLCI ingestion. These observations were also confirmed by in vitro gas production measurements. In conclusion, daily consumption of VLCI extracted from globe artichoke exerted a pronounced prebiotic effect on the human faecal microbiota composition and was well tolerated by all volunteers.

(Received December 16 2009)

(Revised March 17 2010)

(Accepted March 26 2010)

(Online publication July 01 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr A. Costabile, fax +44 118 931 0080, email


Abbreviations: DP, degree of polymerisation; FISH, fluorescence in situ hybridisation; VLCI, very-long-chain inulin