How Inulin May Help Type 2 Diabetes
No, that’s not a typo about insulin: this is about how a supplement called inulin (and not insulin) may help type 2 diabetes by having a positive impact on glycemic control and antioxidant levels. That information comes from a new study in which researchers explain how this prebiotic can be beneficial for women with type 2 diabetes, and maybe you, too.
What is inulin?
Inulin is a term used to describe a group of polysaccharides that is produced by numerous plants. This type of dietary fiber is usually found in the roots of plants, and the plant that most inulins are extracted from is the herb chicory.
As a natural fiber, inulin provides a number of important health benefits, such as help in preventing constipation, lowering cholesterol levels, and promoting good bacteria (probiotics) in the intestinal tract. In fact, inulin is considered a prebiotic, which is a substance that nourishes and supports probiotics, which provide many health benefits on their own.
Many food manufacturers use inulin as an additive because it contributes fiber without adding undesirable taste or texture. Inulin additives also leave a smooth feeling in the mouth, which makes it a good fat substitute in foods.
Inulin and type 2 diabetes
Inulin also may help with glycemic control in people who have type 2 diabetes. Researchers came to this conclusion after studying 49 women with the disease who were randomly assigned to take either 10 grams per day of inulin or maltodextrin (control group) for two months.
By the end of the study, women who had taken inulin had experienced a significant decline in fasting plasma glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, and malondialdehyde levels, along with a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity and superoxide dismutase activity when compared with the control group. What does this mean?
- The decline in fasting plasma glucose is positive because it means inulin may help better control sugar levels
- Glycosylated hemoglobin (also known as hemoglobin A1C) is an indicator of how well individuals are managing diabetes over time. A decline in this factor is positive because it indicates an improvement in blood sugar control and a reduced risk of diabetes complications
- Malondialdehyde is a substance that is a marker for oxidative stress, which is a process that damages cells. Therefore a decline in malondialdehyde is a positive effect
- Increases in total antioxidant capacity and superoxide dismutase activity are both positive signs because they indicate enhanced activity against damaging molecules called free radicals
Therefore, the results of this study indicate that inulin provides a number of important benefits for women with type 2 diabetes. More research is needed to further verify these findings and to determine if the benefits extend to other populations of people with type 2 diabetes.
Where to get inulin?
In addition to inulin supplements, this fiber is found in a number of foods, although they are not those found on most dinner plates. If you want to include more inulin in your diet, add Jerusalem artichokes, burdock root, salsify, and dandelion root to your menu. All of these plants belong to the same family (Asteraceae).
If these foods are not quite to your taste, then inulin supplements may be the answer. However, you should consult your healthcare provider before taking inulin or any other supplement.
Use of inulin as a supplement for type 2 diabetes is still in the investigative stage. However, another recent study reported that inulin was among the prebiotics that showed promise in fighting colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.
DiBartolomeo F et al. Prebiotics to fight diseases: reality or fiction? Phytotherapy Research 2012 Dec 27
Garbari BP et al. Effects of high performance inulin supplementation on glycemic control and antioxidant status in women with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metabolism Journal 2013 Apr; 37(2): 140-48