Inulin is a prebiotic. In general, prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that boost the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Prebiotics have the following characteristics:

  1. They are complex carbohydrates. Think of a simple sugar, like glucose, linked together in long chains.
  2. Prebiotics are resistant to digestion and absorption in the stomach and small intestine.
  3. They are selectively fermented by healthy gut bacteria to alcohols, fatty acids, and carbon dioxide
  4. Prebiotics stimulate bacterial growth that promotes well-being.

Inulin meets all the qualifications stated above and is an excellent prebiotic. Inulin is composed of long chains of fructose. Fructose in simpler form is a component of sucrose and honey. After consumption, inulin travels to the lower gut undigested and is used by bacteria as food and fuel. Research suggests inulin promotes the growth of bacteria that support gut well-being. Excellent sources are chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke.

Potential Benefits of Inulin for Musculoskeletal Health*  

1. Inulin may reduce the risk of chronic inflammation* 

Chronic Inflammation is a known risk factor for various musculoskeletal diseases. Examples include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and sarcopenia. A significant number of immune cells reside near the gut interface with the external world and their behavior is greatly influenced by the type of bacteria within the intestinal tract. Unhealthy gut bacteria alter immune cell function making chronic inflammation more likely, which may aggravate  certain musculoskeletal disease. Prebiotics help promote healthful gut bacteria and potentially neutralize some of the deleterious effects of unhealthy gut bacteria on muscle, bone, and joint function.

South Korean researchers examined the effect of Lactobacillus casei (probiotic) on a rat model of osteoarthritis. The researchers found that oral administration of L. casei together with collagen and glucosamine effectively reduced pain, cartilage destruction, and lymphocyte infiltration compared to control group. (So JS et al. Lactobacillus casei enhances type II collagen/glucosamine-mediated suppression of inflammatory responses in experimental osteoarthritis.Life Sci. 2011 Feb 14;88(7-8):358-66.)

2. Inulin may decrease the risk of obesity* 

Research suggests gut bacteria imbalance contributes to obesity and obesity is a major risk factor for chronic joint disease, such as osteoarthritis. While the exact mechanism is unknown, some research implies that certain unhealthful bacteria can liberate more fat and fat inducing substances from food. Thus, you absorb too much energy and too many calories form the food you eat; increasing your risk of obesity and joint disease.

Potentially, an optimal consumption of prebiotics may promote satiety, fullness and gut bacteria re-balance; making you less hungry and reducing your overall caloric intake.

Researchers at Washington University examined the effect of gut bacteria on both obese and lean human subjects. Their analysis revealed that obesity is associated with changes in the relative abundance of the two dominant bacterial divisions, the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes. The authors concluded that certain unhealthy gut microbiota is an additional contributing factor to the pathophysiology of obesity. (Turnbaugh PJ et al. An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature. 2006 Dec 21;444(7122):1027-31.)


3. Inulin increases absorption and production key of vitamins & minerals* 

Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies are associated with chronic musculoskeletal disease. The bacterial environment in your gut influences the types and amounts of vitamins and minerals your body absorbs. Proper amounts of healthful bacteria optimize the absorption of various essential nutrients your body needs to support and boost muscle, bone, and joint function. Synthesis of vitamin K and several components of vitamin B is another major metabolic function of the gut microbiota. Prebiotics may help fuel and stimulate healthful bacteria making it much easier for your gut to achieve this ideal environment.


4. Inulin may reduce some of the risk of joint disease due to age, gender, and diet differences * 

Research suggests age, gender, and diet are all risk factors for chronic joint and muscle disease. Similarly, analysis of individuals in each symptomatic group when compared to the non-symptomatic group suggests differing gut bacteria profiles. For example, old people have different gut bacteria profiles when compared to young people, males when compared to females, and  individuals who eat a Mediterranean style diet compared to individuals who eat a high fat diet.

Some researchers believe the differing gut bacterial profiles contribute to disease states. Thus, prebiotics through their promotion of healthy bacteria may mitigate the contribution unhealthy gut bacteria makes to chronic musculoskeletal disease.



Inulin is safe for most people when taken at recommended doses. Excessive consumption can result in flatulence, bloating, and diarrhea. As with any consideration of any form of supplementation consult your healthcare provide prior to use if you are pregnant, nursing, taking any medications or have any medical conditions. Discontinue use and consult your doctor is any adverse reactions occur.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.



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 Lucas J. Bader MD

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