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EU health claim for inulin has more immediate importance in the US: Beneo

By Stephen DANIELLS , 16-Jan-2014
Last updated the 30-Jan-2014 at 16:31 GMT

Attaining a positive health claims opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) may be of more importance immediately in the US than in the EU, says leading inulin supplier Beneo.

As reported by our sister site in Europe earlier this week , the three giants of chicory-derived inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) supply, Beneo (Germany and Belgium), Sensus (the Netherlands) and Cosucra-Groupe Warcoing (Belgium), won a significant European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) health claim approval linking non-digestible carbohydrates and improved blood glucose response.

The submitted dossiers featured data from three human intervention studies and three human mechanistic studies which convinced EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA), “that the consumption of foods/drinks in which non-digestible carbohydrates replaced sugars induced lower post-prandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses than sugar-containing foods/drinks”

In Europe, the companies must wait for the EFSA decision to be passed to the European Commission for final approval, meaning it will be tied up in bureaucracy for a while longer. However, in the US, manufacturers can use the data immediately, said Anke Sentko, VP of regulatory affairs and nutrition communication for the Beneo Group. 

“Manufacturers in the US can go ahead a put a product on the market using our gold standard studies,” she said.

New data

According to a joint statement by all three companies, the dossier submitted to EFSA was based on several studies including newly developed science, and shows that oligofructose has a significant part to play in the area of glycaemic control. Sentko told us that, while some data has not yet been made public, the company would make it available to its customers.

Some of the data showed a reduced post prandial sugar response when only 20% of sugars were replaced, although the NDA conditions of use stipulate 30% replacement to carry the claim.

The ability of foods to affect blood glucose levels is commonly measured by the Glycaemic Index (GI), with short chain, digestible carbohydrates like sugar having the highest score while beans and grains reside at the low end of the scale.

“Blood glucose management is important,” said Senkto. “A lower glycemic response is related to a lower insulin response. Insulin is a major driver of metabolism, and linked to the availability of carbohydrates.

“Digestible starches and sugar drive insulin levels higher because it is needed to get the glucose out of the blood and into the cells. But higher levels of insulin drive the body into storage mode and this has a direct link to fat storage. Lower levels of insulin will drive the body to use fat.”

“Inulin provides an option of driving metabolism in the right direction,” she said.

The ingredient is predominantly positioned towards the US functional foods market, said Sentko, with products for weight management and blood glucose control addressing the health threats of obesity and diabetes.

Using oligofructose as a sugar replacer can reduce the blood glucose rise after meals compared to sugar-containing foods and drinks.

Prebiotic activity

The effects of inulin in this area are nothing to do with the ingredient’s establish prebiotic activity, but there are discussions that fermentation is related to gut hormones and may be playing a role, but that is not what the EFSA submission focused on, explained Senkto.

“There is continuous research strengthening data on all directions of inulin,” said Sentko. For Beneo’s Synergy-1 ingredient, there is very strong data generated by the USDA to support the absorption of calcium in adolescents, a critical group in the fight against osteoporosis, she added.  

“We wish that these data will find their way in a more pronounced way to the market,” she said, “but people don’t think about bone health when they are 18.”

Despite the strong data to support the bone health benefits, Sentko said that the company is not currently planning a submission to EFSA for this. “Currently, we’re focusing on the blood glucose management to help manufacturers produce products in this segment.”

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