The breakfast cereal manufacture said that in order to support education and research in the field of cereal fibres and their metabolites in human nutrition, it has endowed the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Cereal Science and Nutrition at Catholic University of Leuven.
Professors Jan Delcour of the Centre for Food and Microbial Technology and Kristin Verbeke of the Gastroenterology Section have been appointed joint holders of the W.K. Kellogg Chair.
The aim of the Chair’s research is to examine the relationship between the consumption of dietary fibre components or enzyme-resistant starch and the production of acetic acid, propanoic acid and butyric acid by intestinal micro organisms.
“This is the first time in its hundred-year history that Kellogg’s is financing fundamental university research,” Margaret Bath, VP for research, quality and technology at the global company. “We chose K.U. Leuven because it conducts the best research into cereals and fibres,” she added.
Professor Jan Delcour reveals: “Kristin [Verbeke] and I had been considering the idea of exploring this line of research for a while, but we lacked the financial means. I mentioned our research approach to Margaret [Bath] and within three weeks we had reached an agreement to establish an academic chair for five years.”
Prebiotics are substances that promote the growth of healthy gut flora, and Kellogg’s said that it is particularly interested in the research conducted by K.U.Leuven on prebiotic dietary fibres extracted from wheat bran.
“Cereal-derived prebiotics are indeed beneficial to human health,” commented co-chair Professor Kristin Verbeke.
“What we don’t know is which metabolic processes play a role in this regard. Our objective is to discover the most important basic mechanisms of action in the digestive system, which explain how these processes work,” she added.
Nelson Almeida, VP of global nutrition and regulatory sciences at Kellogg’s said that: “Hitherto, nobody has unravelled these fundamental processes. Greater insight into the mechanisms of action behind the physiological processes that bring about nutritional and health benefits in the long run will enable us to make our products more effective and increase their nutritional and health value for our consumers.
We believe that the research group led by Jan Delcour and Kristin Verbeke will successfully reveal these basic mechanisms.”
Enzyme-resistant starch and dietary fibre can neither be digested nor absorbed in the human small intestine, but are (partially) fermented by micro-organisms in the large intestine. During this process, micro organisms produce acetic acid, propanoic acid and butyric acid.
“This research will use wheat cultivated under 13°C-atmosphere. After it is harvested, the cereal will be divided into starch, protein and dietary fibre components. Enzyme-resistant starch will then be prepared from the starch component.
The starch and dietary fibre components will be labelled with 13°C, enabling links to be made with the production of acetic acid, propanoic acid and butyric acid. This is the first time such research will be conducted," said the research team involved.