The Chinese Nutrition Society (CNS), China’s largest professional nutrition body, has declared that inulin and oligofructose are among the first accepted prebiotics. The recognition encompasses Beneo’s functional fibres obtained from chicory root and is a consequence of the premier prebiotic scientific consensus statement in China reported recently. The statement explains prebiotics and its criteria for ingredients classification.

As per the CNS, prebiotics are described as ‘food ingredients that cannot be digested or absorbed by human body but can be selectively utilised by human microorganisms and can improve the composition and/or activity of gut microorganisms so as to benefit human health’.

On the basis of consensus, only three food ingredients are accepted prebiotics, supported by high levels of evidence. These comprise inulin, oligofructose, and galacto-oligosaccharides. Among the three, oligofructose and inulin are the only corroborated plant-based prebiotics as they are derived from chicory roots using hot water.

The consensus is a significant step to provide clarity around the definition and benchmarks for scientifically authenticated prebiotics. It offers guidance for food manufacturers creating products with prebiotics that have the required scientific evidence available. It also underpins ingredient manufacturers on the necessities to be categorized as a prebiotic.

Consumers, nutritionists, and clinicians will also benefit from the establishment of this list of scientifically assessed prebiotics, as they can make more informed decisions and suggestions for food products.

This is especially pertinent in China, where 94% of consumers who have heard about prebiotics assert that it has an impact on their purchasing behaviour, and close to half relate them with digestive health. It was also observed that a quarter of Chinese consumers seek out prebiotics when purchasing food and drink products.

Anke Sentko, vice president regulatory affairs and nutrition communication, Beneo, stated- “The prebiotic scientific consensus statement developed and published by the Chinese Nutrition Society is a great step forward in bringing clarity to the definition and criteria for classifying ingredients as a prebiotic. We are pleased that inulin and oligofructose are successfully evaluated by the Chinese Nutrition Society and are now recognised prebiotics. This supports food and drink manufacturers in making better choices for proven ingredients, including Beneo’s chicory root fibres.”

The acceptance of inulin and oligofructose by the CNS is dependent on an initiative run by a dedicated group of local experts under its new ‘Probiotics, Prebiotics and Health’ branch. Inulin and oligofructose belong also to the few internationally recognized and confirmed prebiotics, as per the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Prebiotic chicory root fibres are vital nutrients to include in our diet. Even though all dietary fibres are non-digestible, prebiotic fibres differ in the manner they function in the gut. The fermentation of such prebiotic fibres leads to a selective rise of healthy microbiota which in turn positively affects human health.

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