Production of Inulin in Chicory Roots

Chicory roots are naturally rich in inulin, a fructan sugar that some plants, mostly from the Asteracea family, accumulate as energy reserve instead of the more commonly stored starch. Inulin cannot be digested by the enzymes of the human digestive tract and is therefore a fiber rather than a major source of energy. As such, it has a positive effect on the gastrointestinal functions. Inulin also serves as a prebiotic; that is, it stimulates the growth of certain beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Inulin and its products are used as food additives. Inulin is also used for industrial purposes, mostly by breaking it down into the fructose units the polymer is composed of. This procedure is used to produce fructose syrups. As inulin is easily hydrolyzed and can then be fermented, chicory could also serve as a source of bioethanol in the future.

Kerstin Muller

Further Reading

Baert, J. R. A., and E. J. van Bockstaele. “Cultivation and Breeding of Chicory Root for Inulin Production.” Industrial Crops and Products 1 (1992): 4229-34.

Lucchin, M., S. Varotto, G. Barcaccia, and P. Parrini. “Chicory and Endive.” In Handbook of Plant Breeding: Vegetables I, edited by J. Prohens, and F. Nuez, 3-48. New York: Springer, 2008.

Meyer, D., and M. Stasse-Wolthuis. “The Bifidogenic Effect of Inulin and Oligofruc- tose and its Consequences for Gut Health.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 63 (2008): 1277-89.

Wild, A. Coffee: A Dark History. New York: Norton, 2005.

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