Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), sometimes called oligofructose or oligofructan, is a type of artificial or alternative sweetener. Its use emerged in the 1980's in response to consumer demand for healthier and calorie-reduced foods. FOS is a complex sugar derived from plants, and is not degraded by digestive juices, making it very good for the human body (in contrast to the commonly used refined sugar). This complex sugar is even marketed as a nutritional supplement nowadays.
One way FOS can benefit a person is by encouraging a population spurt among the “good” bacteria among the large populations found in the human body. Many vital tasks are performed by the “good” bacteria found in the human body. These microorganism boost digestion, strengthen the functioning of the immune system, help in controlling the growth of diseases caused by "bad" bacteria, and inhibit the growth of fungi and other pathogens. They are even said to prevent the onset of cancer!
FOS can be extracted from many fruits and vegetables including bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, barley, wheat, jicama, tomatoes, and leeks. However, the Jerusalem artichoke and its relative yacon have been found to have the highest concentrations of FOS of cultured plants.
FOS, which has been a popular dietary supplement in Japan for many years, is now becoming increasingly popular in Western cultures and has many important health benefits. The consumption of large amounts of refined sugar, meats, and the highly processed foods typical of most modern diets deter friendly bacterial populations and boost the growth of bad bacterial populations. However, FOS can counteract this. Its prebiotic effect increases the overall gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract) health by supporting “good” bacteria and deterring “bad” bacteria. FOS has also been touted as a supplement preventing yeast infections, increasing acidity to promote calcium absorption, and offsetting the likelihood of disease due to unrestricted bacterial multiplication.
FOS is especially beneficial to older people, whose populations of “good” bacteria tends to decline with the progress of age. This decline increases their risk of developing yeast infections, various gastric disorders, excess carcinogens, and even cancer in the liver and colon. Thankfully, in clinical studies, older people who were administered doses of a FOS supplement on a daily basis showed an increase in the Bifidobacterium count - a positive sign as a potential remedy for treating age specific condition.
However, the most beneficial feature of FOS is its amazing ability to normalize elevated blood sugar levels. For example, it's 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 completely normalizes blood fat content.
Although most people can eat 5-10 gram of FOS without gaseous discomfort, others may have problems with even 1 gram. The estimated optimal dose for adults is around 5-10 gram/day, but should discomfort occur, the amount should be reduced appropriately.