British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Inulin and oligofructose: effects on lipid metabolism from human studies

C. M. Williamsa1 c1 and K. G. Jacksona1

a1 Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Technology, The University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK


Although convincing lipid-lowering effects of the fructo-oligosaccharide, inulin, have been demonstrated in animals, attempts to reproduce similar effects in man have produced conflicting findings. This may be because of the much lower doses which can be used due to the adverse gastrointestinal symptoms exhibited by most subjects consuming in excess of 15 g/d. There are nine studies reported in the literature which have investigated the response of blood lipids (usually total and LDL-cholesterol and triacylglycerol) to inulin or oligofructose supplementation in human volunteers. Three have observed no effects of inulin or oligofructose on blood levels of cholesterol or triacylglycerol, three have shown significant reductions in triacylglycerol, whilst four have shown modest reductions in total and LDL-cholesterol. Studies have been conducted in both normo- and moderately hyperlipidaemic subjects. Differences in study outcomes do not appear to be due to differences in the type or dose of oligosaccharides used nor the duration of the studies. Because animal studies have identified inhibition of hepatic fatty acid synthesis as the major site of action for the triacylglycerol lowering effects of inulin and oligofructose, and because this pathway is relatively inactive in man unless a high carbohydrate diet is fed, variability in response may be a reflection of differences in background diet or the experimental foods used.


c1 *Corresponding author: Professor C M Williams, tel +44 0118 9318706, fax +44 0118 9310080, email