Beta-glucan best in beverages and soups, research finds

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Beverages and ready-to-eat soups are prime candidates as carriers
of added beta-glucan so long as manufacturers maintain sensory
properties, according to a new book.

Scientist Marika Lyly has expanded research she published in a paper last year into a new book describing how companies can meet the demand for added dietary fibre in functional foods, while producing a viable commercial product. "Connecting a health claim to beverages and soups with added beta-glucan increased their perceived benefit value, but liking for the products was the strongest determinant for the willingness to use them,"​ she concludes. She also noted that consumers would not be likely to pay much extra for functional beverages and soups. Getting added dietary fibre into foods is a difficult task as the ingredient, often derived from oats and barley, affects their sensory characteristics by making them thicker. The ingredient also tends to suppress some flavours with increasing concentrations. Lyly studied whether introducing beverages and soups with added oat and barley beta-glucan could make up for the low fibre intake diet comment in Western societies. Lyly's research, conducted through tests on consumers in her native Finland, found that low molecular weight beta-glucan was easier to add into beverages and soups at higher concentrations then the ingredient's higher molecular weight counterpart. Low molecular weight beta-glucan produced a lower viscosity product, thus helping to maintain the sensory characteristics consumers are used to, she found. Freezing did not affect the sensory characteristics of soups containing beta-glucan. ​"However attention should also be paid to the importance of the high molecular weight of beta-glucan in terms of physiological efficacy," she advises. Her survey also found that adding effective amounts of beta-glucan into foods may be difficult, as consumers are not willing to compromise on taste in foods. The survey on product acceptability was conducted on consumers in France, Sweden and Finland. While the survey indicated that consumers would not likely pay more for functional beverages and soups, the health claim gave a small additional value to the products. She found no differences between men and women's willingness to use such foods. Respondents who were concerned about their blood cholesterol or glucose levels were more willing to use beverages but not soups with health claims. Only in Sweden were the elderly more willing to use beverages with health claims compared to younger respondents. In Finland and France she found no differences between age groups in the willingness to use beverages. There were no differences between age groups in the willingness to use soups in any of the countries. Daily diets should include a minimum of 25 grams of dietary fibre found in plant-based foods, Lyly states, quoting current research. Although many familiar food products - such as wholegrain products, vegetables, fruits and berries - are rich in fibre, the amount of fibre in the Western diet does not meet the current recommendations. "The problem is not that people don't know which foods contain fibre, but that they tend to overestimate the amount of fibre in their diets,"​ she noted. Beta-glucan has been identified as a good option for fibre enrichment due to its capability to reduce elevated blood cholesterol levels and balace blood glucose and insulin response after meals, according to current research. "Palatable fibre-enriched foods could be a possible approach to increase fibre intake as part of a normal diet,"​ Lyly stated. "Further research would be needed to investigate the actual role of fibre-enriched products in the total intake of dietary fibre."

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