With diabetes and high cholesterol on the rise, researchers are looking to food as medicine. Beta glucan, the molecule behind the thick and gooey texture of oatmeal, could help people manage their health by changing how food is digested. However, to get enough of it to see health benefits from eating oats, people would need to eat three bowls of oatmeal a day.
In a concentrated form, beta glucan could easily be incorporated as an ingredient in a wide array of foods, including baked goods, nutrition bars, pastas, and spreads. Until now, however, this extraction process from grains was too high to be economically viable.
Food and nutritional scientists Thava Vasanthan and Feral Temelli, professors at the University of Alberta, developed a method that brings the cost of beta glucan extraction from barley down to just 3.5 cents per serving. The resulting dry concentrated product, called Cerabeta, is already being sold in bulk. It can be sprinkled onto any food for easy consumption.
Beta glucan is a soluble dietary fibre found in the cell walls of grains like oats and barley. The old method used a water and alcohol mixture for separation. By contrast, Cerabeta is produced using air currents and sieves for separation: a process that can easily be automated and scaled for higher production.
When wet, beta glucan is thick and viscous, and its viscosity is what makes it work. As it moves through the digestive tract, it forms a thick network that slows rates of starch digestion and glucose absorption into the bloodstream, helping diabetic patients with glycemic control. It also traps bile acids produced from cholesterol and excretes them instead of sending them back to the liver. As a result, the liver pulls more cholesterol from the blood, lowering cholesterol levels with regular beta glucan consumption.
Cerabeta contains up to 30 percent beta glucan, which is around 10 times more concentrated than what is naturally found in barley grain. Currently, half a tonne of Cerabeta is being produced per day.
Many health benefits of beta glucan have already been proven in a broad range of health conditions including diabetes and weight management. It has also been approved for health claims for heart health in Canada, the United States, and Europe.
Cerabeta is a simple and low cost option that makes it easy for people to integrate more beta glucan into their existing lifestyle, without getting sick of the taste of oatmeal.