On Better Mousetraps And Breakfast Cereals…
Can you build a better breakfast cereal? Two studies recently released that suggest that, much like building a better mousetrap, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to breakfast cereals.
First, a modeling study by Meynier and colleagues investigated different cereal formulations on the postprandial glycemic response, or the measured increase in blood glucose concentrations following a meal. Previous research has shown that adherence to a low-glycemic diet (i.e., a diet that causes a relatively low increase in blood glucose) is associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease. What did they find? Their model showed that the glycemic response depended upon the content of several food components, most notably that of slowly digestible starch (SDS). The content of SDS was found to provide the single largest contribution towards the glycemic response – less SDS was linked to a higher glycemic response. Aside from SDS, viscous soluble fibers such as beta-glucan have been recognized by the European Food Safety Authority for their ability to reduce the glycemic response to meals.
Second, an interesting cohort study out of Japan demonstrates the need for fortification for health. In the United States, folic acid fortification has been mandated for grain products since the late 1990s, and as a result the incidence of birth defects such as spina bifida have decreased dramatically. In Japan, however, folic acid fortification is not mandated, and as such Japan has a higher incidence compared to western countries such as the United States. These investigators found that, not surprisingly, use of folic acid containing supplements by mothers was associated with a reduced risk of having a baby with spina bifida. What was interesting is that a determinant of folic acid supplement use was the awareness of the benefits of folic acid. The authors believed that the reason the overall national incidence of spina bifida in Japan has not decreased because awareness of these benefits remains low, hence the need for approaches that do not depend on consumer awareness, like fortification. That’s the beauty of fortification – you can improve population-wide intakes without depending on consumer awareness and purchase intent. It’s altering their environment to make healthier choices more available.
Essentially, cereal manufacturers have an improtnat role to play in improving the health of their consumers. Making formulation changes that include slowly digestible starches like beta-glucan and fortification of essential vitamins like folic acid (among others) are ways to improve nutrient intakes and help consumers maintain their health.
Kondo A, Morota N, Date H, et al. Awareness of folic acid use increases its consumption and reduces the risk of spina bifida. Br J Nutr 2015; epub ahead of print.
Meynier A, Goux A, Atkinson F, et al. Postprandial glucose response: how is it influenced by characteristics of cereal products? Br J Nutr 2015; epub ahead of print.
Barclay AW, Petocz P, McMillan-Price J, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk – a meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2008; 87: 627-637.
Zhang G, Hamaker BR. Slowly digestible starch: concept, mechanism, and proposed extended glycemic index. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2009; 49: 852-867.