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Fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS)

The compound known as fructo-oligosaccharide or FOS in short - is a complex sugar. This sugar is very widely used in more than four hundred fifty different food products in Japan. FOS is a complex sugar derived from plants and is very good for the human body in contrast to the commonly used refined sugar. The complex sugar is even marketed nowadays as nutritional supplements as it is so healthy and has so many beneficial effects. FOS goes by other names including neosugar or inulin. Good plant sources for this sugar include the Jerusalem artichokes; it is also obtained albeit in smaller volumes from many different types of vegetables and fruits. The complex sugar FOS is considered unique among the sugars as it is not degraded by the digestive juices. FOS instead is transported directly to the gut, where "good" bacteria are involved in digesting it; this tends to encourage a population spurt among the populations of “good” bacteria.

Large populations of these bacteria are found in the human body, populations of billions of microorganisms, some beneficial and some deleterious inhabit the human body. Many vital tasks are performed by the “good” bacteria found in the human body, these microorganism boost digestion, they also strengthen the functioning of the immune system, they help in controlling the growth of diseases caused by "bad" bacteria and inhibit the growth of fungi and other pathogens. These microorganisms are also said to prevent the onset of cancer by helping to keep the acidity levels in the gastrointestinal tract stable. The gut of the average man or woman contains at least four hundred different species of bacteria in the gut, the most beneficial microorganism include the Bifidobacterium bifidum species, the Lactobacillus acidophilus, and the Lactobacillus bulgaricus species. The Bifidobacteria species is especially important as these bacteria are the main agents responsible for the degradation of the B vitamins in the body.

It is very important to maintain the correct balance in the populations of “good” and “bad” bacteria, for optimal health - a sudden spike in the population of a pathogenic strain can bring on serious disorders in the body. The consumption of large amounts of refined sugar, meats, and the highly processed foods typical of most modern diets will tip deter friendly bacterial populations and boost the growth of bad bacterial populations, with attendant results. When this delicate balance leans a little towards the population of “bad” bacteria, the risks of developing yeast infections, various gastric disorders, and even the deposition of carcinogens in the liver and colon increases - this can induce cancer in the affected organs. The populations of “good” bacteria tends to decline with the progress of age, this could be one explanation for the increased susceptibility to the various disease seen in older individuals. In clinical studies, older people who were administered doses of FOS supplements on a daily basis, showed an increase in the Bifidobacterium count - which is a positive sign and a potential remedy for treating age specific illnesses. In this study, it was found that FOS supplementation also led to a reduction in the absolute pH of the lower intestine, this increase in acidity made the environment very difficult for “bad” bacteria populations - thus offsetting the likelihood of disease due to unrestricted bacterial multiplication.

In clinical studies conducted by the Japanese, it was found that consuming just three to six grams of FOS per day led to a great reduction in the level of toxic carcinogenic compounds normally present in human feces - the levels of these carcinogenic compound decreased by a factor of forty percent within three weeks of the use of supplements. The best effect of FOS by far is its amazing ability to normalize elevated blood sugar levels. For example, it is well known that consuming too much of refined sugar products can bring on abnormalities in the blood sugar levels leading to the onset of metabolic problems including Type II diabetes and insulin resistance. FOS, as found in some studies, can actually help bring down high blood sugar levels in diabetics; in addition, it cuts down elevated cholesterol levels and normalizes blood fat content.

Benefits of fructo-oligosaccharides

As fructo-oligosaccharides cannot be absorbed by the body, it works in the form of an indigestible fiber in our diet. This is primarily owing to the fact that our body does not have the enzymes required to break down fructo-oligosaccharides while they moves down the alimentary canal. When FOS arrives in the large intestine as well as the colon, the bacteria naturally present in these parts of the body begin to break down the fructo-oligosaccharides, since they possess the requisite enzymes for the task. It has been found that bifido bacteria utilize fructo-oligosaccharides and foods that support the development of these bacteria are beneficial for our health. Thereby, fructo-oligosaccharides work to enhance the amount of helpful bacteria in the lower part of the intestine, which, in turn, results in better digestion as well as absorption of nutriments, in addition to fortifying the immune system. In addition, it also helps in the elimination process and detoxification.

Fructo-oligosaccharides are also likely to provide relief from constipation as well as other disorders related to the gastrointestinal system, counting problems associated with lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

It may be noted that individuals who have just completed a regimen of taking antibiotics (antibiotics possess the aptitude to severely disturb the balance of bacteria in the intestines) are most likely to find fructo-oligosaccharides beneficial owing to their healthy impact on bacteria present naturally in the intestines. In addition, others who may find taking fructo-oligosaccharides beneficial include those who normally consume a poor diet, people visiting foreign nations where there is a risk of developing “travelers’ diarrhea” as well as individuals who are continuously under stress.

Besides facilitating the digestive process, fructo-oligosaccharides may possibly prove to be beneficial for people with diabetes as it helps to put off fluctuations in the level of blood sugar. In addition, as fructo-oligosaccharides facilitate the removal toxic substances from the body and prevent their accumulation in the body, FOS is also likely to act to enhance the functioning of the liver. Taking fructo-oligosaccharides supplements also appears to be beneficial for the health of the cardiovascular system, because FOS not only decreases fats in blood and total cholesterol level in bloodstream, but is also helpful in bringing down elevated blood pressure.

People who have been in hospital for a prolonged period or those who are receiving long-term medical facilities and are faced with greater chances of developing infections may especially find fructo-oligosaccharides beneficial owing to this complex sugar’s aptitude to augment the resistance of the body to infections caused by bacteria. Findings of several studies conducted on animals hint that FOS may possibly encourage the body to absorb iron and calcium from ingested foods and, thereby, help to put off anemia as well as losing bone density.

Fructo-oligosaccharides have numerous uses, for instance this complex sugar is utilized in the form of a bulking agent, sweetening agent, to enhance flavour as well as in the form of humectants (a moistening agent). It is used in these forms because this complex sugar is indigestible and possesses just roughly 50 per cent of sweetness compared to that of the regular sugar. When FOS is used in the form of a substitute for sucrose, whose calorie content is comparatively low, it may be found in breads, cakes, cookies, dairy products, candies, and a number of soft drinks.

In addition, fructo-oligosaccharides may also be present in additional natural foods. For instance, FOS is incorporated into chemically produced probiotic products.

What are the side effects of taking a fructo-oligosaccharide?

Before you start taking fructo-oligosaccharides, you ought to know about a few facts regarding the use of this complex sugar. In fact, there are some downsides of using fructo-oligosaccharides and you should be aware of them prior to using it. For instance, a number of scientific studies have found that fructo-oligosaccharides augment the development of what is known as ‘bad’ or harmful bacteria like Klebsiella Pneumonia as well as other less friendly microorganisms like E. coli and several Clostridium species. It is worth mentioning here that Klebsiella Pneumonia is linked to an auto-immune disease called ankylosing spondylitis (AS). What is worrying is that Klebsiella Pneumonia is becoming more and more resilient to antibiotics in the United States as well as other places.

In addition, the use of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) may possibly result in augmented gas formation, bloating and discomfort in the abdominal region, especially when you consume it in excessive amounts.

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