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Inulin-type fructans and reduction in colon cancer risk: review of experimental and human data

  • Beatrice L. Pool-Zobel (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2007

Inulin-type fructans (β(2,1)fructans) extracted from chicory roots (Cichorium intybus) are prebiotic food ingredients, which in the gut lumen are fermented to lactic acid and SCFA. Research in experimental animal models revealed that inulin-type fructans have anticarcinogenic properties. A number of studies report the effects of inulin-type fructans on chemically induced pre-neoplastic lesions (ACF) or tumours in the colon of rats and mice. In twelve studies, there were twenty-nine individual treatment groups of which twenty-four measured aberrant crypt foci (ACF) and five measured tumours. There was a significant reduction of ACF in twenty-one of the twenty-four treatment groups and of tumour incidence in five of the five treatment groups. Higher beneficial effects were achieved by synbiotics (mixtures of probiotics and prebiotics), long-chain inulin-type fructans compared to short-chain derivatives, and feeding high-fat Western style diets. Inulin-type fructans reduced tumour incidence in APCMin mice in two of four studies and reduced growth and metastasising properties of implanted tumour cells in mice (four studies). The effects have been reported to be associated with gut flora-mediated fermentation and production of butyrate. In human cells, inulin-derived fermentation products inhibited cell growth, modulated differentiation and reduced metastasis activities. In conclusion, evidence has been accumulated that shows that inulin-type fructans and corresponding fermentation products reduced the risks for colon cancer. The involved mechanisms included the reduction of exposure to risk factors and suppression of tumour cell survival. Thus, this specific type of dietary fibre exerted both blocking agent and suppressing agent types of chemopreventive activities.

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*Corresponding author: Professor Beatrice L. Pool-Zobel, fax +49 3641 949672, email,
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