Beta-glucan for better heart health

by Jeff Gelski
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Those in the food processing industry wanting to know more about beta-glucan have had several opportunities lately. Presentations and studies in California, Washington and Sweden recently focused on how the soluble dietary fiber may improve cholesterol levels and aid in weight control.

Soluble dietary fibers may slow digestion and insulin response, thereby assisting with weight management, said Juliana Zeiher, food applications manager for GTC Nutrition, at the WorldNutra Pre-Conference in Anaheim, Calif. She gave a presentation entitled "Formulating Products with Dietary Fiber and Beta-Glucan for Weight Management."

GTC Nutrition, based in Golden, Colo., offers an oat bran concentrate that is 15% to 20% beta-glucan. In the past, oat applications have been limited to porridges, bread, cookies and breakfast cereals, Ms. Zeiher said. GTC Nutrition believes cereal bars, pasta, meat substitutes and powdered beverages are other potential applications.

Beta-glucan applications, Ms. Zeiher said, potentially may allow manufacturers to use nutrient content claims for fiber and protein; health claims for heart health; and structure function claims for weight management, satiety and blood sugar control.
When oat bran concentrate is used in baking, the level of solids in the dough may require an adjustment for adequate cookie texture, Ms. Zeiher said. Baking temperature and time may need to be adjusted as well.

George Inglett baked cookies with a high level of beta-glucan and presented them at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Washington this past August. Mr. Inglett works as a chemist with the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

His cookies contained his innovative Calorie-Trim (C-Trim). Derived from whole oats and barley, C-Trim contains 20% to 50% betaglucan. The C-Trim may provide functional benefits when added to food, such as replacing butter in dark chocolate. Containing fewer than 4 calories per gram, C-Trim offers 5 times to 10 times more soluble fiber than regular milled oats or flour. When eaten, the biologically active fiber helps the body regulate blood glucose and lowers L.D.L. (bad) cholesterol to diminish the risk of heart disease, according to the A.R.S.

Mr. Inglett faced challenges when extracting beta-glucan from cereal grains. Drawbacks included using hard-to-reclaim chemical solvents and getting low yields of beta-glucan from grain slurries. Mr. Inglett integrated the use of mechanical shearing, centrifugation, steam-jet cooking and drum drying to extract and concentrate beta-glucan from slurries. FutureCeuticals of Momence, Ill., licensed Mr. Inglett’s method from the A.R.S.

Several weeks after Mr. Inglett unveiled his C-Trim cookies, the Swedish company NutriTech International AB released information about a clinical trial that showed how its AkTivated Barley affected cholesterol. Results at the Center for Clinical Tests on Food Stuff at Uppsala University in Sweden, showed AkTivated Barley lowered L.D.L. cholesterol and had no effect on H.D.L. (good) cholesterol. The study involved 41 men and women.

Besides supplements, NutriTech said its Barley Formula may be used in baby food and cereal. To aid in digestion, the Barley Formula includes a full complex of enzymes to break down foods and micro-proteins that break down proteins. NutriTech said its activated barley has a beta-glucan content almost double that of the original material.

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