Similar claims had previously been rejected by EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) over characterisation and other issues, but new studies swung the panel's verdict 180 degrees.
The dossier submitted by Beneo (Germany and Belgium), Sensus (the Netherlands) and Cosucra-Groupe Warcoing (Belgium) featured three human intervention studies and three human mechanistic studies which convinced the NDA, “that the consumption of foods/drinks in which non-digestible carbohydrates replaced sugars induced lower post-prandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses than sugar-containing foods/drinks.”
Some of the data showed a reduced post prandial sugar response when only 20% of sugars were replaced, although the NDA conditions of use stipulate 30% replacement to carry the claim.
The ability of foods to affect blood glucose levels is commonly measured by the Glycaemic Index (GI), with short chain, digestible carbohydrates like sugar having the highest score while beans and grains reside at the low end of the scale.
FOS, non-starch polysaccharides, resistant oligosaccharides and resistant starch will be able to bear the claim under article 13.5 of the European Union nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) if it is mandated by the European Commission and EU member states in the coming months. Article 13.5 of the NHCR deals with claims relating to emerging science or those based on proprietary science that is granted five years of confidentiality under the regulation.
“The dossier submitted to EFSA was based on several studies including newly developed science, and shows that oligofructose has a significant part to play in the area of glycaemic control,” the three companies said in a joint statement.
EFSA's approved claim wording
“Consumption of foods/drinks containing non-digestible carbohydrates instead of sugars induces a lower blood glucose rise after meals compared to sugar-containing foods/drinks”.
“The research has provided additional physiological evidence why oligofructose is a very suitable sugar replacer and therefore represents new opportunities for the food industry to meet consumers’ demand for more low glycaemic and tasty products.”
The three firms added: “With increasing challenges placed on society by diet related diseases such as obesity, overweight, impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes, there is increased emphasis on food and drink producers supporting the development of new, lower glycaemic response products.”
The NDA opinion can be found here.
Inulin also functions as a prebiotic but such claims have not yet won EFSA approval.
Correction: This article initially stated that Sensus was Belgian. Sensus is Dutch.