The Characteristics of Oligosaccharides and Their Functions


In the previous article, we explained “What is oligosaccharide?” Now you may know the overview of oligosaccharide. Then, you may wonder “why is oligosaccharide good?” In this article, we will introduce the characteristics and functions of oligosaccharides, which increase bifidobacteria and regulate the condition of the intestine, in more detail.

Reaches the large intestine without being digested or absorbed

The first characteristic of many oligosaccharides that regulate the condition of the intestine is that they are indigestible. Food that you eat is usually broken down by digestive enzymes such as saliva and gastric juice, and then digested and absorbed, but oligosaccharides are hardly broken down by digestive enzymes and reach the large intestine without being digested or absorbed.

For this reason, oligosaccharides do not become energy for the body as carbohydrates and have little effect on the rise of blood sugar levels even when ingested.

Oligosaccharide is a partner to increase bifidobacteria

Oligosaccharides that reach the large intestine serve as food for bifidobacteria and increase the number of bifidobacteria.

Bifidobacteria are well known as good bacteria that regulate the intestinal environment. This is because when bifidobacteria increase, they produce organic acids such as acetic acid and propionic acid. These organic acids cause the intestines to become weakly acidic, suppressing the activity of bad bacteria in the intestines and activating the intestinal motility, which leads to the improvement of constipation and fecal odor.

There are other effects of the organic acids produced by bifidobacteria. By making the intestines weakly acidic, minerals such as calcium become easier to dissolve and are more readily absorbed into the body. It has been proven that increasing the number of bifidobacteria increases the absorption rate of calcium and other minerals from our daily diet.

Oligosaccharide is a “behind-the-scenes force” that brings about “intestinal regulation” by increasing bifidobacteria.

How does oligosaccharide compare to sugar?

Oligosaccharide is a member of the sugar family, but how does it differ from sugar?

There are various types of oligosaccharides, and let’s take a look “lactose-fructose oligosaccharide” as a typical example here. Lactose-fructose oligosaccharide is an oligosaccharide made from sucrose, a component of sugar, and lactose, a component of milk, and is generally called “lactosucrose oligosaccharide,” and is also known as “lactosucrose.

The calorie content of sugar is 4 kcal per gram, but the calorie content of lactose fructose oligosaccharide is 2 kcal per gram*.

*In the case of pure lactose fructose oligosaccharide. Each product is different.

This is because the organic acids produced by bifidobacteria are absorbed in the intestines and turned into energy. The “sweetness level,” which is an index of the strength of sweetness, is defined as the percentage of sugar that is 100% sweet and the sweetness of lactose-fructose oligosaccharide is about 30%*, so compared to sugar, lactose-fructose oligosaccharide is moderate in both calories and sweetness.

Also, when it comes to the quality (taste) of sweetness, it has an elegant sweetness with no weird sweetness, very similar to sugar. Lactose-fructose oligosaccharides are used in a variety of foods because of these characteristics and functions.


Now we hope that you understand why oligosaccharide is better to take than just sugar. It’s same sweetness, but it has less calories and regulates the environment of the intestine. The calories vary depending on the products on the market. Therefore, you need research which oligosaccharide products are good for your health.

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