Finnish collaboration expands industry uses for beta-glucan

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wheat

A research collaboration out of Finland claims to be increasing the
functional applications of beta-glucan for food, cosmetics and
pharmaceuticals alike.

The VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland, in collaboration with Agrifood Research Finland (MTT), has developed a technology for isolating beta-glucan from oats. For functional food manufacturers, the VTT collaboration maintains that the oat fractions it has produced are well-suited for beverage, dairy, baking and snack applications and have the added advantage of being cost-effective. Beta-glucan, a non-starch polysaccharide found in oats, has been the subject of increasing attention with some reports showing the soluble fibre can decrease LDL cholesterol levels. Despite this, according to the researchers at VTT, the use of beta-glucans in industry is relatively low - part of the reason being a lack of beta-glucan-rich fractions feasible for food applications. VTT reports it developed a dry processing method for extraction, based on the fractionation of fat-free oats using milling and classification technology. As part of the processing, the fat is first removed from oats using a supercritical extraction technology initially developed by MTT for removing pesticides from rice and extracting berry oils from seeds. Following these processes, the remaining material consists of three types of oat fractions: coarse bran with approximately 40 per cent beta-glucan content; defatted starch-protein flour; and small amounts of an extremely light fraction with a beta-glucan content of over 50 per cent. The organizations indicate that, traditionally, dry fractionation methods for oats have resulted in oat bran concentrates with only slightly over 20 per cent beta-glucan content. The collaboration posits that its dry process is economically much more feasible than the wet extraction processes that have up until now been the only option for the production of fractions with such a high beta-glucan content. An additional cited benefit of the technology is that oat fats can be efficiently removed and thereby the shelf-life of the extract extended without affecting bioactive composition of the beta-glucan. Up until now, according to VTT and MTT, this has been an obstacle for oat-related products. Financed by the Finnish Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture, the development of the oat fractionation technology began in 2004 and has involved the participation of several Finnish companies. In terms of volume, there is significant potential for beta-glucan as a value-added ingredient, given that approximately 25 million tonnes of oats are produced annually worldwide. Deriving healthy ingredients from commodities and food waste products is a growing movement in the global nutraceutical industry. Phoenix, Arizona-based firm Nutracea has devised a proprietary technology for extracting a stabilized rice bran from rice byproducts. It is positioning this ingredient as a means of turning food waste into a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

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