Oat and beta-glucan: Healthy solutions for consumers

Kaisa Poutanen

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference articleScientific


    Oat is a nutritionally valuable raw material, being rich in complex carbohydrates, good quality protein and dietary fibre, especially the soluble fibre beta-glucan. Oat is also a good source of trace minerals, folate and vitamin E. The use of oat for human food, however, is rather limited, and oat has been pointed to have hidden potential for use as food ingredient. How could we realise the hidden potential? Oat beta-glucan has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in numerous scientific studies, which led the US Food and Drug Administration FDA in 1997 to allow a health claim on oat products that provide at least 0.75 grams of soluble fibre per serving. beta-Glucan can also attenuate blood glucose levels, which is important both in prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. The retarded absorption of glucose occurs only when the food portion contains high enough amounts of beta-glucan. beta-Glucan has also been shown to increase satiety, and has therefore potential in design of foods assisting in weight control. The viscosity-forming properties of beta-glucan are important for the health effects, but also pose a technological challenge. The delivery of oat and beta-glucan to benefit consumer health is not possible without processing to functional and palatable foods and ingredients. Current uses of oat grain range from flakes for porridge and breakfast cereals to various forms as a (minor) ingredient in bread, pasta, biscuits and nutrition bars. It is obvious that many new products remain to be developed to increase food uses of oat. Oat solubles and enriched beta-glucan have been introduced in oat milk, oat "yoghurt", oat ice cream, oat pancake-mix and meal replacement drinks. The production of high- beta-glucan oat bran ingredients for various end uses is also well established. At VTT, the research into oat and beta-glucan as food components has ranged from factors affecting taste and texture to production of active ingredients and process technologies for tailoring product quality, such as baking technology for whole grain oat bread (Salmenkallio-Marttila et al 2004). Oat malting technology for production of new food ingredients has also been studied with the aim of tailoring bioactivity, flavour and texture (Wilhelmson et al 2001, Heiniö, 2003). Special emphasis has been taken to preserve the high molecular weight of beta-glucan. Both hedonic and health-related aspects are important for consumers' perceptions of various food alternatives. Flavour and sensory characteristics remain important criteria also in foods marketed with functional or health claims. In the very recent PhD thesis of Marika Lyly, taste was shown to be the most important factor affecting the consumers’ willingness to use foods containing beta-glucan (Lyly, 2006). The research was part of the EU-funded project “Cereal beta-glucans”, and showed that adding oat and barley beta-glucan into beverages and ready-to-eat soups affected their sensory characteristics by making them thicker but also suppressing some flavour attributes with increasing concentrations of beta-glucan (Lyly et al 2003,2004). The molecular weight and type of beta-glucan preparation influenced the maximal possible concentration, as well as the rheological properties of the final product. Freezing did not affect the sensory characteristics of soups containing [beta]-glucan. In a consumer study made in Finland, France and Sweden it showed that connecting a health claim to beverages and soups with added beta-glucan gave only a small additional value (Lyly et al 2006). It is obvious that the healthy solutions can be successful only if their sensory quality is highly competitive.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2006
    MoE publication typeNot Eligible
    EventFunctional Food Network - General Meeting - Turku, Finland
    Duration: 8 Mar 200610 Mar 2006


    ConferenceFunctional Food Network - General Meeting


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