Fructooligosaccharide or FOS, is a naturally-occurring substance that is used primarily as artificial sweetener and as a healthier alternative to sugar produced from sugar cane. FOS is found in highest concentration in Jerusalem artichokes and yacon (root crops that closely resemble yams and sweet potatoes) and also in substantial amounts in bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, barley, wheat, jicama, tomatoes and leeks.
FOS became commercially available in the 1980s as a response to the growing clamor of consumers for healthier and more nutritious foods. Thus, with the help of nutritionists and health food advocates, enterprising 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.
FOS, also known as oligofructan or oligofructose promotes proper absorption of calcium in the body. The high solubility of calcium in acid makes it more easily digested in the stomach resulting to a lower pH level and also facilitates a more speedy transport of food from the stomach into the bloodstream. Therefore, a diet rich in FOS will provide you with an adequate supply of calcium necessary for the proper maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.
Long before FOS became known world-wide, it was already popularly used as dietary supplement among health-conscious Japanese men and women since before the 1990s for its prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are nutrients that cannot be properly digested in the stomach but serves as a great source of energy by beneficial bacteria called bifidobacteria or bifidus, that dwell in the colon necessary for growth and multiplication. The presence of FOS in the intestines promotes general gastrointestinal health.
Because FOS is indigestible, they pass through our digestive system chemically unchanged making it a perfect sugar substitute because of its zero calorie content. It is a combination of this low calorie benefit and the sweetness level it provides that makes FOS a popular sweetener for a variety of food products currently sold in the market. But even if fructooligosaccharides can be produced naturally, this product is now commercially mass produced because of the growing demand by consumers of this health food product.
FOS is also known to strike a balance between the bad and good bacteria in the digestive tract making it a perfect nutritional supplement to prevent colon cancer and other gastrointestinal disorders. Dominance of the bad bacteria causes a condition called dysbiosis which can trigger a chain reaction of various illnesses that can seriously affect the body.
Other benefits of FOS is its ability to relieve constipation, other gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and lactose intolerance.