Carb craze could boost low GI fibres

Related tags Carbohydrate Nutrition

Fibre suppliers are hoping to benefit from sustained interest in
carbohydrate intake among European and US consumers, which is
currently driving leading food makers to reformulate a wide range
of their product lines.

Dutch ingredients group Acatris said this week that fibres that released sugar slowly had a good future in a climate where consumers now measure foods by their carbs rather than calories.

"The next phase in the low carb hype is the 'slow carb' trend,"​ said Liesbeth Neven, product manager of health ingredients at Acatris​.

"Healthcare professionals and consumers know that we need some carbohydrates in our diets. The key is to understand which types of carbs are beneficial,"​ she added.

Ingredients, such as the firm's FenuLife fenugreek extract, are now being pitched at the emerging trend for 'low GI' foods, or those with a low glycemic index, meaning that they cause only a small rise in blood sugar levels, compared to the spikes seen after consumption of a refined carbohydrate food.

While a recent report revealed the extent to which low-carb diets such as Atkins are influencing new product development at major food makers, there is also increasing awareness of the role of the glycemic index, which is coming to be seen as a more 'sensible' way of reducing sugars and losing weight.

So much so, that the UK's number one supermarket Tesco last month introduced new food labels that rank a product according to its position on the glycemic index.

And 'low GI' foods are not only being promoted for weight loss but also the numerous obesity-related diseases.

"Speciality ingredients such as FenuLife have a useful role in reducing the GI of a diet and in doing so may help reduce the risk of a variety of lifestyle diseases,"​ noted Neven.

A study published in the June issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ online (doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601992) found that dietary GI and glycemic load were positively associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors among Japanese women who consumed white rice as a staple food.

Acatris has also done research on the FenuLife extract, now on the market since 2000, showing that it reduces blood sugar levels in both non-diabetic and type 2 diabetic subjects. It has gained important sales in Asia for use in supplements marketed for diabetics, a group that has been using the GI index long before it reached mainstream consumer awareness.

In Europe, supplement makers are more wary of marketing directly to diabetics but increasing awareness of the GI could make targeting a wider range of consumers - those interested in losing weight and preventing obesity-related disease - much easier.

"GI is not really new for Acatris but we are predicting a link between the current trend for low-carbs and 'slow carbs' or low GI foods,"​ explained Petra de Wit, marketing communication manager at the firm.

They will not be the only company to profit however. Other fibre suppliers carefully watching this trend include Japan's Taiyo Kagaku which makes SunFiber, produced from guar beans.

The firm is currently seeing annual sales growth of around 15 per cent in the fibre on the US market and is also looking to expand sales in Europe, having recently expanded production capacity. New studies, including one to be published shortly, have confirmed the regulation of blood sugar levels and the lowering of glycemic index value through consumption of the fibre.

Research has also found the sugar replacer Isomalt to have a very low glycemic index.

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