Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima

Project Year 2015

A grain of truth about cereals

Nofima conducts several ongoing research projects to exploit the healthy components of grains. Optifiber and OatMet are two such projects.

The fibre in whole grain products are affected differently during processing. It is not certain that the fibres retain their special health properties after baking, for example. This particularly applies to beta glucans.

During raising the enzymes, which occur naturally in grain, start to break down the beta glucan chain. This is a problem, because the larger the beta glucan molecules are, the better their healthy properties. This is why researchers are attempting to deactivate these enzymes.

The next step is to investigate how beta glucans work in the body. These fibres affect viscosity, i.e. the flow rate of the content of the stomach and small intestine, and inhibit reabsorption of cholesterol and biliary acids, which reduces the level of cholesterol in the blood, among other things. They will also affect absorption of glucose.

“It is the size and solubility of the beta glucans that determine how effective they are,” says senior researcher Svein Halvor Knutsen.

The researchers use a model for mouth, stomach and small intestine, and take samples of how different components in the food are affected during digestion. The researchers have also developed another model that simulates the large intestine. Here they study how fibre is decomposed and exploited by the gut flora.

Oats contain several components that can affect the sensation of fullness and thus our food intake. By combining them in the right way, it may be possible to tailor foods with an extra fullness effect.

“In OatMet we are investigating which components and physiological mechanisms make us feel full and eat less for our next meal,” says senior researcher Bente Kirkhus.

Among other things, results from the project show that trial persons feel more full after eating porridge made from oat flour than oatmeal. The nest stage in the study is that researchers at the “Institute of Food Research” in the UK use MRI to investigate what takes place in the stomach and small intestine when trial persons eat porridge with the same nutritional content, but with different structure.

Both Optifiber and OatMet are funded by the Research funds for agriculture and the food industry

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