Oat fiber could improve nutrition in food

By staff writer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

A new oat variety developed by scientists in the US could increase
intake of the soluble oat fiber called beta-glucan in their diets.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and North Dakota State University (NDSU) scientists believe that HiFi, a new spring oat bred specifically for increased beta-glucan content, could help improve the nutritional profile of a range of foods.

Combined with a healthy diet, beta-glucan can help lower blood levelsof so-called "bad" cholesterol, diminishing the risk of heart disease.

According to Doug Doehlert, a cereal chemist with ARS' Red River ValleyAgricultural Research Center in Fargo, HiFi boasts 50 percent more beta-glucan than whole-oat products now sold in grocery stores.

This means a consumer could eat less of a whole-oat product made withHiFi to get the same health benefit. Or, more of the food could be eaten to gain even more of beta-glucan's benefits, according to Doehlert.

Interest in soluble fiber is rising fast, according to Frost and Sullivan. According to a recent market report, the entire fiber market in the US was worth $192.8 million in 2004, $176.2 million of which is insoluble fiber and $16.6 million soluble.

But while Frost and Sullivan predicts overall growth to $470 million by 2011, the soluble fiber sector is expected to increase by almost twice the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) compared to insoluble fiber - 26.3 percent compared to 13.1 percent. This balance is in sharp contrast to the European and Japanese markets, where soluble already has a greater share.

Fiber is edible matter, often from plants, that is not absorbed by the small intestine. When it passes through to the large intestine, soluble fiber, such as beta-glucan from oats and barley, inulin and polysaccharides, is fermented. It is understood to help slow blood glucose absorption and have a prebiotic effect (stimulate probiotic bacteria in the gut).

Doehlert and Mike McMullen of NDSU have been cooperatively breedingoats since 1993. During routine grain analysis, Doehlert noticed something odd - one of the oat lines furnished by McMullen contained more beta-glucan than usual.

Interest in HiFi for food products initially looked bleak, since suchoats are normally imported from Canada or oat-producing regions of theUnited States other than the northern Plains. But health-label claimsnow permitted for foods containing beta-glucan have rekindled interest in HiFi, according to Doehlert.

Organic Grain and Milling is negotiating licensing rights with the NDSU Research Foundation to market HiFi as an organic brand.

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