Jerusalem artichoke, an inulin-rich herb that gut microbiota love

Inulin from Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunroot) to Curb Obesity by Chula Research Team

“Inulin from Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunroot)” an innovation from Chula Faculty of Medicine helps maintain the balance of gut microbiota, and reduce obesity, is to be developed into a prebiotic functional health-boosting food for all ages.

Obesity, especially in children, may not be caused by overeating alone, but could also be from the imbalance of gut microorganisms, also known as “gut bacteria obesity in children.”

“Among people with obesity, we often find an imbalance in the gut microbiome: a lack of certain good microorganisms which help the body burn and consume energy properly. So, tackling this type of obesity can be achieved by providing ‘prebiotics’ to add good microorganisms to balance the intestines and promote balanced functioning of the bodily systems,” said Adjunct Assistant Professor Chonnikant Visuthranukul, M.D., Nutrition Division, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine revealed the rationale behind the “Research Project on the Effect of Inulin extract from Jerusalem Artichoke in Obese Children” done in collaboration with Assistant Professor Dr. Supakarn Chamni, Department of Pharmacognosy and Pharmaceutical Botany, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University.

Adjunct Assistant Professor Chonnikant Visuthranukul, M.D., Nutrition Division, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine
Adjunct Assistant Professor Chonnikant Visuthranukul, M.D., Nutrition Division, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Assistant Professor Dr. Supakarn Chamni, Department of Pharmacognosy and Pharmaceutical Botany, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University. Photo by Chulalongkorn University,

“This is the world’s largest research project that administered prebiotics to 165 obese children who volunteered to participate.  Participants drank 1 packet of the special formula of inulin extract from Jerusalem artichoke (sunroot) by dissolving it in water daily for 6 months. The research results were great.  The subjects’ intestinal microflora were restored to normal conditions without any side effects,”  Adjunct Asst. Prof. Dr. Chonnikant explained.

The research received the first prize from the world-class FISPGHAN Abstract Award for the best oral presentation and the Young Investigator Award at the 6th World Congress of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (WCPGHAN 2021) in Vienna, Austria. The team is prepared to take the research to the next level by producing prebiotic functional food as a health booster for people of all ages.

Jerusalem artichoke, an inulin-rich herb that gut microbiota love

Jerusalem artichoke is a native plant of North America, but it is grown widely in Thailand because of its adaptability to tropical climates.  It’s also called sunroot, sunchoke, wild sunflower, earth apple, and so on.

“Sunroot’s health benefit comes from a large amount of inulin compared to other plants. Inulin is a water-soluble fiber high in fructo-oligosaccharides (chains of plant sugar) — the prebiotics that is an excellent food for the essential gut microbiome (or probiotics). Probiotics help link the communication between bodily systems with the brain, for example, to regulate the feelings of hunger and fullness. It also connects the liver and pancreatic systems to regulate blood sugar levels, the immune system to reduce inflammation in the body, and the liver and fat cells to reduce fat storage, thus promoting weight loss,” Asst.Prof. Supakarn explained.

From sunroot inulin to functional food to balance gut microbiome and curb obesity
From sunroot inulin to functional food to balance gut microbiome and curb obesity. Photo by Chulalongkorn University,

Today, inulin is used as an ingredient in many food products and supplements. However, for this research Adjunct Asst. Prof. Dr. Channikant said that the research team came up with a breakthrough method of extracting inulin which was petty patented in 2020.

“In the extraction of inulin from Jerusalem artichoke, we select a special type of water-soluble fiber through a cutting-edge method that’s never been done before to maintain its prebiotic properties that promote the growth of healthy microorganisms.”

In addition, Adjunct Asst. Prof. Dr. Channikant added that the team focuses on studying sunroot variants that are grown in Thailand to promote optimum plant use and create jobs as well as income for Thai farmers as well.

From sunroot inulin to functional food to balance gut microbiome and curb obesity

At present, the research team has expanded the research to the development of two formulas of inulin beverage: original and cocoa flavors to make it easier for obese children and adults to drink.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Supakarn compared conventional weight loss products and the sunroot inulin products that “conventional weight loss products work as a diuretic, causing the weight to go down rapidly. It is a short-term solution that has numerous side effects. Sunroot inulin, on the other hand, will make you feel full and have fewer cravings. The ingested fiber would move through the intestines, and provide food for bacteria in the colon.  This bacteria growth process is good for your health in keeping blood sugar, and cholesterol in check while promoting the immune systems.

Sunroot Inulin to be developed for consumers
Sunroot Inulin to be developed for consumers. Photo by Chulalongkorn University,

Sunroot Inulin to be developed for consumers

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Supakarn said that the inulin extract developed by the research team is an active ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of food products like drinks or crispy, soft, or jelly snacks to meet the needs of all groups of consumers.

“Inulin can be adapted into many forms, but the processing must not impair the effectiveness of inulin. Further study is needed to find an appropriate process to suit the special inulin fiber from sunroot,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Supakarn.

The research team is currently seeking collaboration from interested private sectors for the commercial production and marketing of the “sunroot inulin“.

“What we want to do next is to bring the research results to the production processes certified by international standards to manufacture and market the inulin to the public.  This is so that they can have access to quality, and safe products, that can strengthen the body. It can also help support Thai growers of the highly nutritious sunroot as well.” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Supakarn concluded.

For more information on sunroot inulin, please contact

Adjunct Asst. Prof. Chonnikant Visuthranukul, M.D.,
Department of Pediatrics
Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University
Tel: (+662) 256 4951
or e-mail: chonnikant.v@chula.ac.th

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Supakarn Chamni
Department of Pharmacognosy and Pharmaceutical Botany, 
Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University
Tel: (+662) 218 8357
or e-mail: supakarn.c@pharm.chula.ac.th

By Chulalongkorn University

Chulalongkorn University https://www.chula.ac.th

“Chulalongkorn University sets the standard as a university of
innovations for society and is listed in the World’s Top 100 Universities for Academic Reputation, in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2021-2022.”

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