The outcome of a HealthGrain project, which included researchers from the University of Ulster in Ireland and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, showed that clinical trials with ready-to-eat cereals and bread containing wheat aleurone demonstrated anti-inflammatory and LDL cholesterol lowering health benefits.
The part of the wheat kernel called the aleurone contains the grain’s highest concentration of vitamins and minerals.
According to the published findings, aleurone fractions were produced by Buhler in their pilot production plants in Switzerland, and these were then incorporated into ready-to-eat cereal by Buhler and into bread rolls by Barilla in Italy.
These products contained nine grams of aleurone per portion and the University of Ulster research team led by Dr Ruth Price and Professor Rob Welch then conducted a 4-week randomised controlled clinical study with human subjects, who consumed two portions of bread rolls, and one portion of ready-to-eat cereal as part of their diets.
Blood samples were collected during the study, and the researchers said that their results showed that, compared to control products, the consumption of the products, which provided 27 g aleurone per day, led to significant changes in a number of plasma biomarkers and that processing had little effect on uptake.
They claim that their findings show that wheat aleurone can impact significantly on postprandial betaine and ferulic acid plasma levels, said the researchers, who found increased blood concentrations of beneficial compounds such as betaine, and decreased homocysteine and LDL-cholesterol that are both associated with heart disease risk.
Furthermore, they said, there was a decrease in C-reactive protein (CRP) which is a biomarker for inflammation.
Betaine lowers plasma homocysteine, an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and ferulic acid has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential, they explained.
Whether these observations would be maintained with regular consumption of aleurone-rich products, and possible longer-term health benefits, requires further investigation, added the researchers.
Aleurone based cookie
Last year Cargill released a high fibre vitamin and mineral-enriched base for cookies and bars incorporating the fraction, with the company saying its ‘Healthy Cookie Base’ contained 57.5 per cent whole grains and more than 25 per cent dietary fibre.
Cargill Bakery Category’s marketing manager Kyle Marinkovich told our sister publication FoodNavigator-USA.com at the time that it used wheat aleurone in the base because it is “ loaded with vitamins and minerals, including essential vitamins, including B6, niacin and E, as well as important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.”
Cargill’s affiliated miller, Horizon Milling, developed a way to isolate this layer in 2008 to, it said, allow for the nutritional benefits of wholegrain to be incorporated into more processed foods.
Although wheat aleurone contains 45 per cent dietary fibre, the Cargill affiliate said it has the “pleasing sensory qualities people enjoy in foods made from white flour: Soft texture, high volume, mild taste and light colour.”
A conference in Lund, Sweden this week is examining the results of the EU backed Healthgrain project, which brought together researchers from 17 countries, plant breeders, millers, ingredient suppliers and the food industry.
The organizers said that the event would provide the opportunity to examine the Healthgrain results, to debate the key outcomes, to make recommendations for public health and for the advancement of further research efforts.