Glycaemic Index test could help food makers

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Glycaemic index Nutrition

TNO claims to have developed a method that enables a more rapid
determination of the glycaemic index and digestibility of
carbohydrates.

The Netherlands based company said that the breakthrough, which is basically an improvement of the traditional Englyst method for analysing starchy foods, could have important consequences for research into the prevention of obesity and diabetes.

"This glycaemic TNO index method is a fast yet simple and reliable alternative to expensive human studies,"​ said the company.

"Manufacturers can now use the method to predict the glycaemic index (GI) of foods and screen products for both fast and slow digestible carbohydrates and several other kinds of dietary fibre."

The method can also be used for the routine screening of carbohydrate ingredients prior to GI determination via human studies, thus accelerating product development.

The interest in the GI of foods and the digestibility of carbohydrates has increased considerably in recent years. A number of studies suggest that a low GI and slowly digestible carbohydrates can contribute to the prevention of obesity and diabetes.

The glycaemic index measures how quickly certain foods release carbohydrates into the body, which then raise consumers' blood glucose levels. High GI foods cause blood sugar levels to rise more rapidly.

But the current GI craze has its critics. Dr Glenn Gaesser, co-chair of the US Grain Food Foundation's clinical advisory board for example, said last summer that the growth in the popularity of the term was being pushed by the food industry.

"With the GI craze we have a case of the tail wagging the dog- everyone is following along for fear of losing market share.

"The utility of the glycaemic index with regard to health and weight control is overstated and not backed by a fair amount of published research,"​ he said.

However, an Australian research team based in Sydney reported in the summer that a low-GI carbohydrate-rich diet could lead to weight loss of five per cent or more and reductions in bad cholesterol levels. The results were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Vol 166, pp. 1466-1475).

The Englyst method, which dates from the 1990s, is intended to provide a quick determination of the digestibility of starchy foods.

The carbohydrates in the products studied are divided into three categories. The categories show how fast the glucose is released: fast, slow or not at all.

The down side to this technique however is that it does not measure the progress of the digestion process, and does not use all the enzymes present in the small intestine that break down the carbohydrates, for instance, lactase, which breaks down milk sugars.

TNO claims to have improved the Englyst method by being capable of predicting the speed of digestion of several enzymes. This means that a more reliable picture of the progress of digestion through time can obtained.

The glucose that is released when the carbohydrates are broken down also known as the glucose response is determined at several points in time. This reveals the speed of digestion and enables the GI of foods to be predicted.

Additional small intestinal enzymes are added to the cocktail of digestion enzymes used in the analyses to help determine the digestibility of all the carbohydrates present in the food. At this moment TNO investigates if the content of dietary fibre can be determined with this method in a way better than existing methods, including the classification in type of dietary fibre (soluble, insoluble and low-molecular weight).

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