In this chapter, I would summarize that both inulin and oligofructose are indigestible, have significant 'dietary fiber effects' often comparable to pectins, are carbohydrates of plant origin, naturally occurring in significant amounts and show beneficial effects on the gut flora. For these properties, no significant differences have been found between inulin and oligofructose.
Consequently it cannot be considered 'misleading' to the consumer to pres-
Coussement ent inulin and oligofructose as dietary fiber for labeling purposes from a nutritional viewpoint. This classification has been proposed by many authors (3-9).
Often it is questioned whether indigestible oligosaccharides should not be excluded from the dietary fiber group. The 'cutting point' could lie at DP = 10. However such a distinction would be very artificial. There are no nutritional grounds which would allow one to state that oligosaccharides with a DP of 9 would not be fibers, while those with the same structure but a DP of 11 would. Dietary fiber effects are not limited by the DP of the molecules.
It is hard to sustain that oligosaccharides should be excluded for historical reasons. Nutritional knowledge and progress should never be fixed by historical findings. Also, the first scientists who identified a food fraction which they called 'dietary fiber' characterized it as 'polysaccharides' indeed. This characterization was probably meant to describe the fraction, and not to exclude the oligosaccha-ride fraction which they most probably were not aware of. Moreover, even Trow-ell and Burkitt included oligosaccharides in the DF definition (10).
Some people believe oligosaccharides should be excluded from the dietary fiber fraction because of an assumed laxative effect. It is obvious that the borderline DP of 10 is not determining a laxative potential. Normal doses of non-digestible oligosaccharides cause no laxative effects, as is witnessed by already more than 150 commercial products containing inulin and oligofructose on the market. And after all, is the laxative effect not an inherent property of dietary fiber?
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