The firm yesterday announced it is marketing and selling PolyCell’s Barley Balance ingredient, which it claims is “the most concentrated source of barley beta-glucan soluble fiber produced by a natural and sustainable process”.
Beta-glucan, a non-starch polysaccharide found in cereals such as oats and barley, has been the subject of increasing attention with some reports showing the soluble fiber can decrease LDL-C levels.
Heart health claim
This has prompted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow a heart health claim to be used on foods that contain a minimum of 0.75g beta-glucan soluble fiber per serving.
According to SunOpta, the Barley Balance ingredient contains a minimum of 25 percent beta-glucan, and over 35 percent total dietary fiber, meaning that foods made with the ingredient could qualify to use the FDA-approved claim.
Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States for at least 50 years.
Preventing the condition has therefore been a priority for US consumers, and these concerns have been rapidly taken up by the food industry.
According to information from Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD), heart health was the functional food category that saw the most product launches in 2007, when 148 new products were launched.
Barley Balance is derived from North American waxy, hull-less barley. It is made using a proprietary dry milling and separation process that is solvent free, which gives it a clean-label appeal, said SunOpta.
The ingredient can be used in a range of food and drink products, including bread, muffins, tortillas, crackers, cereal, nutrition bars and various beverages.
As well as being a source of added fiber, the ingredient is also said to be effective as a fat-replacer and to provide anti-staling benefits.
Blood pressure reduction
Beyond the cholesterol reduction benefits of beta-glucan, several studies have also reported that beta-glucan-containing foods can play a role in controlling blood sugar and reducing blood pressure.
A pilot study from 2002 by Joseph Keenan at the University of Minnesota reported that daily consumption of an oat cereal containing 5.5 grams per day of beta-glucan led to systolic and diastolic blood pressure reduction of 7.5 and 5.5 mmHg, respectively in moderately hypertensive men and women with high insulin levels (Journal of Family Practice, Vol. 51, p. 369).
Furthermore, researchers recently reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602562) that consumption of beta-glucan-containing foods could reduce the insulin and glucose response after a meal, thereby easing a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Such a reduced response could translate into the blood pressure reduction observed in the obese/ high-BMI people participating in the study.