Inulin moves into new positioning for weight management

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Glycemic index

Inulin is low-glycaemic and can be used in foods designed for
weight management, says one of the leading suppliers of the fibre,
Sensus.

The Dutch company is among the first to position inulin, better known for its gut health properties, as a weight loss ingredient, and has been communicating the market opportunities at a series of seminars around Europe.

While studies suggest that a low-glycaemic index diet may not be more effective on weight loss than a low-fat, high GI diet, the findings show that low glycaemic foods - those with a slow release of sugar - tend to decrease the risk of obesity-related disease.

For example, recent trials have found that a low glycaemic diet improved cardiovascular risk factors to a greater extent than a low-fat diet. Low-glycaemic diets may also have a lesser effect on lowering metabolism than low-fat diets, making dieters feel less tired, cold and hungry and more likely to stick to the regime long-term.

And because of the slower energy release from low GI, a diet rich in these kind of foods has a stronger effect on insulin resistance than merely cutting out fat from the diet. This helps in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

Moreover, weight management and diabetes prevention is currently one of the biggest health concerns of the western world, with almost one third of people living in the European Union currently overweight and more than one in ten obese, according to European Association for the Study of Obesity.

For the inulin producer, there is another clear oppportunity here, as weight management "requires less explaining to consumers"​ than gut health, according to Diederick Meyer, manager of scientific and legal affairs at Sensus​.

"Inulin has been known to have a low insulin response since the early 20th century. But we have properly determined the glycaemic index of inulin and started new product development,"​ he told NutraIngredients.com.

However he admitted that it remains difficult to convey the low-GI message to European consumers. Most consumers still do not understand how the glycaemic index works, and recognizing this, European regulatory authorities are unlikely to include the low-GI claim on a list of approved nutrition claims in forthcoming legislation.

Nevertheless, there are a handful of leading manufacturers and retailers in Europe that have managed to get round the restrictions on communicating low-GI benefits.

Danone has introduced new packaging for a number of products that describe the slow energy release using images and charts. A logo on its Jacob's Sunlife Breakfast Biscuits reads 'Long Lasting Energy'.

The bread maker Warburtons has also used a slogan on its low-GI white bread based on the 'longer lasting energy' idea. The UK's leading retailer Tesco has gone further by including 'low-GI' or 'medium-GI' labels on its products, supporting these with a large publicity campaign to explain how the glycaemic index works.

"You can tell the story but it requires space on the labeling,"​ Meyer explained.

Other fibres are low on the glycaemic index too, and Sensus is not alone in trying to develop this market. Danisco's Litesse brand polydextrose, the Acatris FenuLife fenugreek extract, and Taiyo Kagaku's SunFiber, produced from guar beans, are all being targeted at this new category.

But Meyer claims that inulin offers a wider choice of health benefits. "Customers can also use the low-calorie and fibre proposition as well as market the prebiotic properties."

The seminars have already taken place in the Netherlands, Germany and the UK with further dates being planned for Asian markets.

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