Skip to main content

Inulin, oligofructose and bone health: experimental approaches and mechanisms

  • Connie M. Weaver (a1)

Inulin-type fructans have been proposed to benefit mineral retention, thereby enhancing bone health. Many, but not all, experimental animal studies have shown increased mineral absorption by feeding non-digestible oligosaccharides. Possible reasons for inconsistencies are explored.A few studies have reported an enhanced bone mineral density or content. Bone health can be evaluated in chronic feeding studies with bone densitometry, bone breaking strength, bone mineral concentration and bone structure. Isotopic Ca tracers can be used to determine the point of metabolism affected by feeding a functional food ingredient. These methods and the effects of feeding inulin-type fructose are reviewed. Inulin-type fructans enhance Mg retention. Chicory long-chain inulin and oligofructose enhance femoral Ca content, bone mineral density and Ca retention through enhanced Ca absorption and suppressed bone turnover rates, but it is not bone-promoting under all conditions

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Inulin, oligofructose and bone health: experimental approaches and mechanisms
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Inulin, oligofructose and bone health: experimental approaches and mechanisms
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Inulin, oligofructose and bone health: experimental approaches and mechanisms
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Connie M. Weaver, fax +1 765 494 8237, email
Hide All
Alekel, L St, Germain, A, Peterson, CT, Hanson, K, Stewart, JW & Toda, T (2000) Isoflavone-rich soy protein isolate alternates bone loss in the lumbar spine of perimenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr 72, 844852.
Beynen, AC, Baas, JC, Hockemeijer, PE, Kappert, HJ, Bakker, MA, Koopinan, JP & Lemmens, AG (2002) Faecal lacterial profile, nitrogen excretion and mineral absorption in healthy dogs fed supplemental oligofructose. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr 86, 298305.
Cashman, K (2003) Pebiotics and Ca bioavailability. Curr Issues Intest Microbiol 4, 2132.
Chonan, O & Watanuki, M (1995) Effect of galactoolgiosaccharides on Ca absorption in rats. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 41, 95104.
Chonan, O, Matsumoto, K & Watanki, M (1995) Effect of galactooligosaccharides on Ca absorption and preventing bone loss in ovariectomized rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 59, 236239.
Chonan, O, Takakashi, R & Watanuki, M (2001) Role of activity of gastrointestinal microflora in absorption of Ca and magnesium in rats fed β1-4 linked galactooligosaccharides. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 65, 18721875.
Chonan, O & Watanuki, M (1996) The effects of 6'-galactooligosaccharides on bone mineralization of rats adapted to different levels of dietary Ca. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 66, 244249.
Coudray, C, Bellanger, J, Castiglia-Delavaad, C, Rémésy, C, Vermovel, M & Ragssiguier, Y (2003) Effects of dietary fibers on magnesium absorption in animals and humans. J Nutr 133, 14.
Griffin, IJ, Davila, PM & Abrams, SA (2002) Non-digestible oligosaccharides and Ca absorption in girls with adequate Ca intake. Br J Nutr 87, S187S191.
Griffin, IJ, Hicks, PMD, Heaney, RP & Abrams, SA (2003) Enriched chicory inulin increases Ca absorption mainly in girls with lower Ca absorption. Nutr Res 23, 901909.
Heaney, RP, Weaver, CM & Fitzsimmons, ML (1990) Influence of Ca load on absorption fraction. J Bone Miner Res 5, 11351138.
Institute of MedicineInstitute of Medicine (1997) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Kishi, K, Goda, T & Takase, S (1996) Maltitol increases transepithelial diffusional transfer of Ca in rat ileum. Life Sci 59, 11331140.
Levrat, MA, Rémésy, C & Demigné, C (1991) High propionic acid fermentations and mineral accumulation in the cecum of rats adapted to different levels of inulin. J Nutr 121, 17301737.
Martin, B, Braun, M, Wigertz, K, Wood, O, Bryant, R & Weaver, CM (2002) The effect of inulin on Ca absorption in adolescent females. J Agric Coll Nutr 21, 485 Abstr.
Morohashi, T, Sano, T, Ohta, A & Yamada, S (1998) True Ca absorption in intestine is enhanced by fructooligosaccharide feeding in rats. J Nutr 128, 18151818.
Ohta, A, Motohaschi, Y, Ohtsuki, M, Hirayama, M, Adachi, T & Sakuma, K (1998a) Dietary fructooligosaccharide change the concentration of calbindin-D9K differently in the mucosa of the small and large intestine of rats. J Nutr 128, 934939.
Ohta, A, Ohtsuki, M, Baba, S, Hirayama, M & Adachi, T (1998b) Comparison of the nutritional effects of fructooligosaccharides of different sugar length in rats. Nutr Res 18, 109120.
Ohta, A, Uehara, M, Sakai, K, Takasaki, M, Adlerkreutz, H, Morobashi, T & Ishimi, Y (2002) A combination of dietary fructooligosaccharides and isoflavone conjugates increases femoral bone mineral density and equol production in ovariectomized mice. J Nutr 132, 20482054.
Roberfroid, MB, Cumps, J & Devogelaer, JP (2002) Dietary chicory inulin increases whole body bone mineral density in growing male rats. J Nutr 132, 35993602.
Scholtz-Ahrens, KE & Schrezenmeir, J (2002) Inulin oligofructose and mineral metabolism: experimental data and mechanism. Br J Nutr 87, S179S186.
Taguchi, A, Ohta, A, Abe, M, Baba, S, Ohtsuki, M, Takizawa, T, Yuda, Y & Adachi, T (1994) The influence of fructooligosaccharides on the bone of model rats with ovariectomized osteoporosis. Sci Rep Meiji Seika Kaisha 33, 3744.
Tahiri, M, Tressol, JC & Arnaud, Y et al. (2003) Effect of short chain fructooligosaccharides on intestinal Ca absorption and Ca status in postmenopausal women: a stable isotope study. Am J Clin Nutr 77, 449457.
van den Heuvel, EG, Muys, T, van Dokhum, W & Schaafsma, G (1999) Oligofructose stimulates Ca absorption in adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr 69, 544548.
Weaver, CM (2002) Adolescence the period of dramatic bone growth. Endocrinology 17, 4348.
Weaver, CM & Liebman, M (2002) Biomarkers of bone health appropriate for evaluating functional foods designed to reduce risk of osteoporosis. Br J Nutr 88, S225S232.
Weaver, CM, Wastney, M & Spence, LA (2003) Quantitative clinical nutrition approaches to the study of Ca and bone metabolism. Clin Rev Bone Miner Metab 1, 219232.
Writing Group for the Women's Health Initiative Investigators (2002) Risk and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women. Principal results from the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. J Am Med Assoc 288, 321333.
Zafar, TA, Weaver, CM, Jones, K, Moore, DR II & Barnes, S (2004a) Inulin and isoflavone bioavailability and its Ca absorption enhancing effect in rats. J Agric Food Chem 52, 28272831.
Zafar, TA, Weaver, CM, Zhao, Y, Martin, BR & Wastney, ME (2004b) Nondigestible oligosaccharides increase Ca absorption and suppress bone resorption in ovariectomized rats. J Nutr 134, 399402.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed