Bakery sector

Beta-glucans and other nutraceuticals


Among the substances that recent research has defined as important for our health, there are some that are well-suited to be added to baked goods, thanks to their chemical-physical and organoleptic qualities.  

Sensitivity of consumers toward healthy diet and its benefits for health and longevity is increasing. Foods containing healthy substances such as vitamins, fibers, antioxidants, etc. are often laborious to prepare and consume, discouraging those who have little time to devote to cooking. For these reasons the formulation of products for easy and immediate consumption (like baked ones) that have as added value the content of beneficial substances, has a growing appeal for consumers. Among the substances which the recent scientific research has confirmed to be important for our health, there are a few that  are well suited to be added to baked goods thanks to their chemical-physical and organoleptic qualities. Here are some examples.

Beta Glucans

Beta glucans (ß-glucans) are non-starchy polysaccharides composed of glucose molecules that are part of the so-called “soluble fibers”. They are present in many cereals (particularly abundant in barley and oats) but also in the cell walls of common yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Thanks to their structure they are able to form with water viscous solutions within the upper gastrointestinal section, then fermented in the colon. These fibers, if consumed in appropriate quantities (at least a few grams a day) can have important beneficial effects, scientifically proven and including:

-Reduction of blood cholesterol levels, of which they can partly block absorption by the intestine, with reduction of cardiovascular diseases. Such “claim” has been approved by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in January 2012 and is one of the few to be awarded such recognition by the uncompromising panel that approves only in the case of solid scientific evidence. The mechanisms by which beta glucans reduce the absorption of cholesterol by intestine are various, primarily including the mechanical action resulting from the increase of intestinal content’s viscosity.

-Reduction of allergies: a recent study (1) highlighted the possibility of reduction in symptoms from pollen allergies (one of the most popular among the many tens of millions of people who suffer from allergies worldwide) in individuals who consume beta glucans. Voluntaries (all suffering from pollen allergies) have taken 250 mg of beta-glucans extracted from yeast for 4 weeks, and showed an improvement of symptoms in 50% cases, compared with voluntaries who took placebos.

-Strengthening of the immune system: another recent study (2) highlighted the possibility that taking beta glucans can increase the body’s ability to fight against pathogenic microorganisms, reducing the incidence of colds by 25% and faster recovery from symptoms in 15% of affected individuals, on a sample of people of various ages, particularly susceptible to cold diseases.

-Reduction of blood glucose levels: these results were obtained with a wheat and rye bread with addition of beta glucans, bran and Lactobacilli based yeast (3). Its beneficial effect, despite having been found for now on a small group of healthy voluntaries, is promising in diets for diabetics and/or overweight people.