Chicory Root Fibers and Healthy Bones
Many of us grew up with the ubiquitous advertising tag-line – Milk Builds Strong Bones. This claim was made by the American Dairy Association because dairy products – particularly milk – are rich in calcium, a mineral required to strengthen and harden human bone tissue.
Most people think of adult bones as fixed and unchanging. However, while bone growth occurs from birth through the teen years, bone maintenance continues throughout one’s life, and maintenance requires calcium.
Calcium absorption occurs in the digestive system, as calcium we receive from food or supplements moves across the gut lining and into the blood.
However, as is true with fiber, most Americans do not consume enough calcium. One reason is that while many foods contain calcium; the amount of calcium that is actually released and absorbed varies depending on the food, food combinations and the environment in the gut. This is one reason, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, why some 54 million Americans suffer from fragile bones and low bone mass, particularly men and women over the age of 50.
“Made mostly of collagen, bone is living, growing tissue. Collagen is a protein that provides a soft framework, and calcium phosphate is a mineral that adds strength and hardens the framework. This combination of collagen and calcium makes bone strong and flexible enough to withstand stress.” – National Institutes of Health
What Are Chicory Root Fibers?
Chicory root is a common herb that grows throughout the United States. Fibers extracted from the root of the plant are natural ingredients used to enhance the taste and texture of a number of store bought foods including various dairy products, breads and bakery products, dressings and sauces and more. You can tell if a product contains chicory root fiber by checking the ingredients on the label. The presence of chicory root fiber is indicated by listing chicory root as an ingredient, inulin (the key component of chicory root), or oligofructose (a form of inulin).
How Can Chicory Root Fibers Help Promote Strong Bones?
All fiber in the diet is good, but some fibers are better than others. Inulin is a plant-based carbohydrate that can’t be broken down by normal human enzymes in the digestive system. Instead, inulin ferments in the gut, a process that generates short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The release of SCFAs into the gastrointestinal tract results in a whole host of health benefits. Importantly, SCFAs nourish and promote the growth of the “good” bacteria in the colon. This helps to maintain regularity, supports the gut barrier function and may play a key role in healthy and prevention-oriented nutrition.
In addition, it has been scientifically proven that the presence of SCFAs helps to create a more acidic environment in the large intestine. This promotes the absorption of calcium in the large intestine, in other words a new, additional place of calcium absorption is opened, leading to improved bone mineral density.
Next time you visit the grocery store, look for products that have been enriched with chicory root fibers. And to really give your bones a treat, check out the dairy aisle for yogurts and other products that have chicory root on the label. These provide a one-two punch of calcium as well as the SCFAs that help absorb it into the blood stream.