Fructooligosaccharides or FOS are plant sugars that occur naturally in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and cereals. They are derived from asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, and soybeans, or produced synthetically. FOS pass undigested through the small intestine and are fermented in the colon. FOS, also known as oligofructan or oligofructose, became available for the consumers way back in the 1980′s as people’s demand for healthier and more nutritious food options grew. With the help of a number of nutrition experts and healthy diet advocates, manufacturers started producing artificial sweeteners by extracting FOS from fruits and vegetables providing a level of sweetness between 30 to 50 percent of sugar in commercially prepared syrups.
Long before FOS became widely known to the public, they have already been used as dietary supplement among health-conscious Japanese men and women since before the 1990s for its prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are substances that selectively promote the growth and activity of specific species of bacteria in the gut. These are nutrients that are not easily digested in the stomach, but are a great source of energy by a certain bacteria called bifidobacteria or bifidus. Bifidus relies on prebiotics for growth and multiplication, thus, its presence in the body promotes a healthier gastrointestinal health.
Due to the fact that FOS are not digested in the stomach, they pass through our system without undergoing chemical changes, making them the perfect sugar substitute because they have zero calorie content. The combination of this being zero in calories and the level of sweetness that it provides, it’s no surprise that FOS is by now the most popular sweetener for various food products that are being sold in the market. Fructo-oligosaccharides are not hydrolyzed by human digestive enzymes, and they are not recoverable in the feces. This suggests complete metabolism by colonic microflora.
Furthermore, FOS also promotes better calcium absorption in the body. Calcium is highly soluble in acid, which then makes calcium easily digested in the stomach.There have also been preliminary studies that looked into the efficacy of FOS against colon cancer. They provide a good balance between good and bad bacteria in the digestive system, making them the perfect supplement for colon cancer patients, according to researchers. In experimental models of colon cancer, fructo-oligosaccharides seem to stimulate local immune surveillance to inhibit tumor formation. In addition to this, FOS is also known for its other health benefits such as relieving constipation and other gastrointestinal issues, relieving irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and lactose intolerance.