Rapid measurement of beta-glucan quantity and quality

Dietary fibers in general and beta-glucans in particular have health benefits and there is great interest in using them in food products. To be able to make health claims on packaging it's necessary to verify the content of beta-glucans and rapid analytical methods provide a way to do that. Learn more about beta-glucan content and how Perten analyzers can be used to determine it.

Beta-glucans
A large number of scientific studies link increased dietary fiber intake to reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, digestive health benefits and weight decrease. There are many initiatives to increase fiber consumption around the world, by local as well as regional organizations. One of them is the European Food Safety Authority which has a program to increase oats and barley consumption, as these grains have high levels of beta-glucans, a specific class of dietary fibers which is often claimed to particularly strong health benefits. Around 3 grams per day is mentioned as a daily recommended intake.

Many food companies are looking at how to increase beta-glucan content in their products, to be able to make health claims in marketing. For example barley flour could be added to wheat flour. A wheat flour product with 20% beta-glucan enriched barley flour would contain 3-4% beta-glucans, which gives an additional 1-2 grams of beta-glucans per slice of bread. Another beta-glucan enriched product could be polished rice with pearled barley added to it, and a portion of this mixture would provide 1 gram extra beta-glucans.

Unfortunately it's not enough to simply include barley or oats in recipes. In order to make health claims the content needs to be within certain tolerances, and this needs to be managed as the beta-glucan content in oats DA 7250or barley is not the same from shipment to shipment. Rather, there are fairly large variations between grain varieties, due to differences in growing conditions, and differences in grain processing. Beta-glucan content in whole grain oat typically varies from 2% to 8% of dry weight, and in oat bran concentrate from 15% to 35%.

NIR instruments (infrared light spectroscopy) provide a very rapid and easy means to determine beta-glucan content. A non-technical operator can confidently measure beta-glucan content in less than 10 seconds using a modern NIR instrument such as the Perten DA 7250 and IM 9500 models, with similar accuracy as traditional wet chemistry methods. This allows for rapid monitoring of incoming ingredients, to eIM 9500nsure that the final product conforms with content specifications.

Knowing the beta-glucan content is an important first step, but it's also necessary to understand its quality, or functionality. Processing oats and barley into food products could have an impact on the properties of the beta-glucan, thereby decreasing its health benefits. Verifying that this does not happen requires a different kind of analysis method than the straight-forward content analysis by NIR. Rather, the functional properties of the beta-glucan need to be tested, and this can be done using the Rapid Visco Analyser (RVA).

RVAThe RVA is a cooking, stirring viscometer with ramped temperature and variable shear capability optimized for testing the viscous properties of grains and foods. An RVA method for beta-glucan viscosity testing, which is a measure of its physiological effects, was first reported in 2012 and was recently approved as an AACCI standard. Using the RVA product developers can optimize recipes to achieve optimum physiochemical properties, and Quality Assurance can ensure consistency of beta-glucan characteristics in final products.

Please follow the links for further information on the DA 7250, the IM 9500 and the RVA.