In light of yet another series of food scandals involving McDonald nuggets and melamine-tainted milk, China Daily reported over the weekend that inulin, a popular food additive and sweetener, has been found to induce stomach aches for some children if consumed excessively.
Inulin is a carbohydrate fiber that is found naturally in produce such as bananas, wheat, onions and garlic. When inulin is consumed from such unprocessed foods, it is hard to over-eat. However, inulin is often extracted and used as a food additive for processed products including chocolate bars, drinks and other snacks (and we know all too well how easy it is to over-eat chocolate!) If our intake of inulin is too high, we may experience symptoms such as bloating, stomach aches and diarrhea.
Seen on one too many ingredient labels of sweets and beverages made in the US, inulin has also become more prevalent among Chinese food manufacturers. Known as 菊糖 (ju tang) in Chinese, this carbohydrate fiber can be chemically altered to imitate tastes and textures that dieters want in their food, acting as substitutes for sugar, cream and butter in ice cream and other tempting desserts.
University of Minnesota researchers who conducted the inulin studies suggest that most people can tolerate up to 10 grams of native (natural) inulin and 5 grams of processed inulin per day.
Some household brands in our pantries and freezers that contain this carbohydrate fiber include Nestle ice creams, Dove chocolate bars, Oreo cookies and chocolate milk. Since this popular additive is so pervasive in our daily lives, avoiding consumption of sweet inulin altogether would be an impossible feat to achieve. Instead, families should stick to the foolproof plan of choosing to eat unprocessed foods over the sugary goodies.