Inulin is a naturally occurring prebiotic polysaccharide that belongs to the fructans and serves as a storage substance in many plants. It is mainly extracted from the roots and tubers of various plants, including chicory, artichokes, garlic, onions, and Jerusalem artichoke.

The structure of inulin consists of long chains of fructose molecules attached to a glucose molecule. This special structure makes inulin an indigestible carbohydrate that passes through the small intestine without being broken down and directly enters the large intestine. There, it serves as food for beneficial gut bacteria, especially for Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. The fermentation of inulin in the gut contributes to the formation of short-chain fatty acids, which are important for gut health and other physiological functions.

Inulin is valued for its positive effects on gut health. It can promote the growth of good gut bacteria, strengthen the gut barrier, improve digestive function, and reduce the risk of digestive disorders like constipation. Additionally, inulin can help stabilize blood sugar levels and is therefore often used in foods for adults and older children as a dietary fiber supplement.

However, inulin is not typically used in infant nutrition. Infant formula, which serves as a replacement or supplement to breast milk, contains specific prebiotics such as human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), fructooligosaccharides (FOS), and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). These are designed to mimic some of the benefits of the naturally occurring prebiotics in breast milk, especially in terms of promoting a healthy microbiome and supporting the infant's immune system.

In summary, inulin is a valuable prebiotic fiber for older children and adults, but it is not typically a component of infant formula.