Use of bglucans in food products

It is well known that the source (e.g. species), processing treatments (e.g. milling, temperature, pH effects) and interactions with other constituents in the source - and then in a composite food matrix - are likely to influence structural features, concentration and dispersibility-solubility of P-glucans and so modulate their physiological action. P-Glucans enrichment in some products, leading to concentrated products, has increasingly been studied because it allows a larger P-glucan intake per serving with a minimum decrease in palatability and an increase in volume ingested.66 In most intervention studies, specific concentrated or processed products have been used, whereas commercially available foods are seldom used.61 Several studies have shown the advantages of enrichment of oat products in achieving physiological effects. In fact, greater beneficial effects are obtained with these enriched products than with products naturally high in P-glucan.66 Moreover, the use of P-glucan concentrates in processed food such as muesli bars, pasta, and cereal does not drastically reduce the efficacy of reducing post-prandial glycaemia.66

The sensory properties of P-glucan, especially its high viscosity, influence the sensory quality of the products. Positive health effects of products may not guarantee that the product is chosen repeatedly if its sensory quality is not adequate. Taste pleasantness has been found to be the most important factor affecting food choice of novel foods and food choices overall.107-109 Their good viscosity-forming properties make P-glucans potential alternatives as thickening agents in different food applications, e.g. ice creams, sauces and salad dressings.110 Compared with other thickening agents, oat gum was less viscous than xanthan and guar at 0.5%, but slightly more viscous than locust bean gum at the same concentration.111 To make the daily consumption of the FDA-recommended four portions of 0.75 g P-glucan feasible, new types of P-glucan-containing foods need to be developed in addition to cereal products where P-glucan is an intrinsic component. One option for these new products is frozen, ready-to-eat foods, as the consumption of these is growing in general.112 Frozen ready-to-eat soups are one possible product category, where P-glucan could be used as a thickening agent.99

P-glucan is suitable for a wide range of food products, because, being a neutral and non-ionic polymer, its viscosity is not affected by pH.111 As the viscosity of P-glucan reversibly decreases with increased temperature, warm food products would be ideal products for enrichment with P-glucan.111,113 In warm foods the concentration of P-glucan could be higher than in cold foods because the product would have decreased sensory thickness during eating or drinking as a result of increased temperature. Technologically, more-processed P-glucan preparations are easier to add into foods in amounts sufficient for achieving a physiologically functional amount of P-glucan in a product. However, the relationship between physiological functionality and molecular weight has to be kept in mind.

The effects of different P-glucan preparations on the sensory texture and instrumental viscosity of beverage prototypes and soups have been evalu-ated.99114 The results showed that both the type and concentration of P-glucan are important in determining the characteristics of foods. Different P-glucan preparations gave different viscosities (both sensory and instrumental) in beverages and soups containing the same amount of P-glucan. The effect was dependent on the molecular weight of the soluble fibre. Currently, the focus of the food-related industries is on developing new foods with sufficient P-glucans content, maintained viscosity and good palatability, in order to facilitate long-term intake and effectiveness. The appearance of new products combining health potential and high acceptability is very important and depends, in the case of cereals, on the devel opment of new processing technologies and improved knowledge of fibre distribution in the matrix.115 In an EU project entitled 'Design of foods with improved functionality and superior health effects using cereal P-glucans (QLK1-2000-00535)', different foods that normally do not contain cereals were enriched with P-glucans and the health effects were documented.

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