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Scientists extend potential of flaxseed gum-starch use

By Stephen Daniells , 14-May-2008

Mixing maize starch and flaxseed gum, a lesser used hydrocolloid with properties similar to guar gum, may offer food formulators a new way of control texture and improving stability, suggests fundamental research from China and Turkey.

The combination of starch and non-starch hydrocolloids is often employed by food formulators to modify and control the characteristics and properties of food systems, but the potential of the starch-flaxseed gum mixture has been overlooked thus far, according to a report in the Journal of Food Engineering. "To the best of our knowledge no study has been published on the interactions of flaxseed gum and starch," wrote lead author Yong Wang from China Agricultural University. "Such studies are useful in exploring the potential utilization of flaxseed gum and maize starch for food," added Wang. Promising early results Wang, in collaboration with researchers from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, prepared maizestarch (Beijing Xinghua Starch Corporation) flaxseed gum (Sinkiang Luqi Biotechnology Ltd.) mixtures, keeping the starch fraction at three per cent and the varying the level of flaxseed gum between 0.10 and 0.50 per cent. They found that the consistency of the resulting mixtures increased with increased concentrations of flaxseed gum, and also decreased when the temperature was raised. "Similar trends (i.e. the influence of gum concentration and temperature on the [consistency] values of gum-starch mixtures) were reported in previous studies of rice starch-xanthan gum and maize starch-guar gum mixtures," wrote Wang. The researchers also state that, in terms of rheological properties, the influence of temperature was more important in mixtures where a high flaxseed gum concentration was used. "As a result, flaxseed gum could be used together with maize starch to achieve a high apparent viscosity in food industry," they stated. Industry value The research may tweak the curiosity of food formulators as prices for hydrocolloids rose in 2007 and are expected to continue rising in 2008, according to market analyst IMR International. A number of hydrocolloid firms have announced price increases across their product range over the last quarter of 2007. According to IMR, "it is the reality of market pressures, however, that is dictating price increases rather than formal announcements." These pressures, which have been increasingly squeezing margins and sending up prices, include higher energy costs and higher raw material costs, with prices for pulp and seaweed reaching near record high levels. Like all sectors, ingredients firms find themselves squeezed between rising costs they can no longer sustain, and customers unwilling to pay more for their products. Food and beverage manufacturers, often unwilling or unable to absorb the extra cost due to challenges of their own, may turn to alternative products for their formulation needs, as seen in the move by some companies towards dairy alternative ingredients after dairy prices shot up this year. Source: Journal of Food Engineering Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2008.04.005 "Effect of flaxseed gum addition on rheological properties of native maize starch" Authors: Y. Wang, L.-J. Wang, D. Li, N. Ozkan, X.D. Chen, Z.-H. Mao

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