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Page last update: 25/12/2008

Eat your way to health with functional food

Functional foods are foods which can provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. They include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fortified or enhanced foods and beverages. Rapid advances in science and technology and a growing awareness of attaining wellness through diet are among the factors fueling this interest. Many academic, scientific, and regulatory organisations are now working towards establishing the scientific basis to support and further validate claims for functional components or the foods containing them.

A recipe for success

One example is linseed, which is said to protect against cancer – but not everybody likes the taste. Researchers have now isolated the valuable components of the flax seeds. Incorporated in bread, cakes or dressings, they support the human organism without leaving an unpleasant aftertaste.

Cake that can ward off cancer? Noodles that lower the cholesterol level? What sounds like an advertising stunt could soon be a reality. Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising have isolated valuable components of linseed and lupin seeds and experimentally incorporated them into various foodstuffs: the linseed in cakes, bread, dressings and sauces, the lupin in bread, rolls and pasta. The result is not only delicious, but healthy as well. 'Flax is not only high in soluble fibre, but also contains lignans.

These substances are phytoestrogens, so they have a similar effect to that of the isoflavones that we know from soy beans. According to the literature, they protect the organism against hormone-dependent forms of cancer – that is, breast and prostate cancer,' says IVV project manager Dr Katrin Hasenkopf. 'The lupins, on the other hand, contain substances that our studies have found to have a positive impact on the cholesterol level.'

Unlocking the potential

But how do the researchers isolate the valuable components? 'We make use of the differing solubility of the various constituents: if the pH value is acidic, the unwanted bitter substances are the first to dissolve. If the pH value is then set back to neutral, you get the valuable proteins – without the bitter taste. We are also able to separate large components from small ones by a series of filtration steps,' explains Hasenkopf.

The scientists are already skilled at isolating the valuable constituents. Now they are preparing to conduct further investigations with the aim of confirming the effects they hope to see. 'The healthy effects of linseed and lupin seeds are already known from literature, but so far there is a lack of conclusive scientific investigations on the subject. These substances undoubtedly have very high potential,' says Hasenkopf. The researchers will be presenting the linseed and lupin foods at the Biotechnica trade fair in Hannover on October 7 through 9 (Hall 9, Stand E29). In about three years’ time, the expert hopes, the new cholesterol-lowering foodstuffs will be available on supermarket shelves – maybe even including cakes, bread rolls and sauces enriched with the valuable substances obtained from flax seeds.

Source: AlphaGalileo

For further information:
Fraunhofer Institute
European Food Information Council (EUFIC)

Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top