Managing enzymes may control diabetes
Scientists can now control the activity of the enzymes that process starchy foods into sugars during digestion, and this may help them control those processes in people with type 2 diabetes. Four enzymes called alpha-glucosidases, which are responsible for generating glucose from starch digestion in the small intestine, each break down starches into different sugars at different rates, reported Bruce Hamaker, a professor of food science and director of the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research at Purdue University. People who do not have one or more of these enzymes create glucose improperly. “In diabetics, you don’t want this roller coaster of blood-glucose levels,” said Hamaker. “Their bodies can’t regulate glucose that well. If you can selectively inhibit these enzymes, it opens up the possibility of moderating glucose to the body as well as directing glucose release into different parts of the small intestines for certain physiologic responses.”

The researchers conducted the tests on starch degradation products and the alpha-glucosidase enzymes in a simulated gastrointestinal tract system. They developed inhibitors (acarbose and three sulfonium ion compounds) that selectively inhibited the enzymes, a process they called “toggling.” “We could provide the missing enzymes or develop new starches that will digest properly with the enzymes they do have,” said Mario Pinto, a professor of chemistry and vice president for research at Simon Fraser University, Van ccouver, Canada. “It’s all about control and using the molecular information we have to control those enzymes.”

The study, “Modulation of Starch Digestion for Slow Glucose Release through ‘Toggling’ of Activities of Mucosal α-Glucosidases,” appeared in the Sept. 14, 2012, issue of Journal of Biological Chemistry.

New insights into bitterness threshold
Using the rejection threshold method, researchers with Penn State University found that people who prefer milk chocolate can accept a smaller range of bitter tastes before rejection compared to those who prefer dark chocolate. The rejection threshold method may help sensory scientists and food technologists to determine how much is too much when formulating food products, they said.

The rejection threshold method combines dose-response and preference measures, and it has been used exclusively in liquid foods, according to the researchers. In this study, the researchers extended the use of the method to solid foods by determining the reactions of subjects to a bitter substance added to solid chocolate. The subjects were divided into two groups based on their self-reported preferences in chocolate (milk or dark). The subjects tried a series of pairs of dime-sized chocolate samples, one that contained sucrose octaacetate, a bitter-tasting substance, and the other, which did not contain it. The amounts of sucrose octaacetate increased in each successive pair. The subjects who preferred dark chocolate had a rejection threshold about 2.58 times the rejection threshold of the subjects who preferred milk chocolate. The study, “Rejection Thresholds in Solid Chocolate-flavored Compound Coating,” appeared online early in Journal of Food Science, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2012.02889.x.

Pizza’s popularity increases
Whether it is take-out, delivery, dine-in, or store-bought frozen, Americans love pizza. The U.S. pizza market has reached $40 billion, thanks in part to the 97% of U.S. adults who eat pizza and the 93% who have patronized a pizza restaurant in the past 12 months, according to an August 2012 survey by Packaged Facts.

Packaged Facts also revealed that on a monthly basis, 27% of U.S. adults purchase pizza for pickup or delivery (about 410 million pizzas a year), 26% purchase pizza at restaurants, and 24% from frozen food cases. The company also points out that while pizza restaurants have lost share to other types of restaurants, major pizza chains continue to post increased sales. Sales of private label frozen pizza, pizza products, and refrigerated pizza have increased, making up the bulk of the share of retail sales. National brands, though, have seen sales growth primarily in the categories of natural and organic, with brands from companies like Newman’s Own and Amy’s Kitchen posting significant growth among the top 12 frozen pizza manufacturers, according to data compiled by Packaged Facts.

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Many consumers are choosing healthier food options so pizza manufacturers may want to enhance the overall healthfulness of pizza without sacrificing taste, reported David Sprinkle, the publisher of Packaged Facts. Some of the ways in which this can be done, he said, are experimenting with fusion cuisine, using leaner proteins, providing a variety of vegetables, adding premium natural cheeses and sauces, and exploring the development of on-the-go breakfast pizza options.

Differing definitions of a healthy diet
Adults in the U.S. define healthy eating differently, basing it on whether they are adding something to their diet or eliminating something from it, reported NPD Group.

The results of a survey of 1,921 adults conducted by the company showed that 55% said that healthy eating is equally adding to and removing something from their diet, 26% said that it is adding something to their diet, and 19% said that it is removing something.

Some of the products that an increasing number of adults and children are adding to their diets are vitamin supplements and fortified products, or functional foods and beverages, according to NPD Group’s report, The Market for Functional Foods. The data show that about 80 million, or one-third, of adults say that they are interested in functional foods and beverages, and 25% of adults consume a functional food or beverage at least once a day. These numbers indicate that there is an opportunity to encourage more adults and teenagers to consume functional foods and beverages every day, said Darren Seifer, a food and beverage industry analyst for NPD.

Synthesized sugar aids research
A newly synthesized sugar found in human milk offers a cost-effective form of the sugar and allows for additional research on its role in developing the immune system in infants, according to researchers at University of Illinois.

The human milk oligosaccharidecalled 2’-fucosyllactose plays a role in developing gut microbiota in and strengthening the immunity of breast-fed babies, but the sugar is expensive (1 mg of the sugar costs $100, with a single study requiring $1 million worth of it), which could stifle research. Yong-Su Jin, a microbial engineer and professor in the university’s Institute for Genomic Biology, synthesized the sugar using a strain of Escherichia coli engineered for that purpose.

Jin’s work is already paying off; his colleague Michael Miller, a professor of microbiology, will begin research to investigate the role of 2’-fucosyllactose in infant nutrition and eventually make a recommendation about whether the sugar should be added to infant formula. Both researchers said that the technique to synthesize the sugar could be used to synthesize other human milk oligosaccharides, which could lead to discoveries beyond the use of the sugars in infant formula. One proposed application is pharmaceutical; 2’-fucosyllactose can be added to foods for adults to help reduce the incidence of diarrhea. Another possible application could be adding the sugar to chicken feed so pathogens would bind to it instead of the mucosal lining of the bird’s intestine, reducing the number of Campylobacter infections in humans.

The study, “Whole Cell Biosynthesis of a Functional Oligosaccharide, 2’-fucosyllactose, Using Engineered Escherichia coli,” was published in the online journal Microbial Cell Factories, doi: 10.1186/1475-2859-11-48.



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What’s new with food companies  

Bell Flavors and Fragrances celebrated its 100th anniversary on July 25, 2012. 

Certified Laboratories has opened a laboratory that offers food chemistry and microbiology testing services in Bolingbrook, Ill.

Comax Flavors has received certification from the British Retail Consortium, which recognizes that Comax’s products are manufactured and handled in ways that ensure quality and safety.

Edlong Dairy Flavors has launched a new website at www.edlong.com  to help customers more easily find information about its ingredients.

FMC Corp. plans to construct a microcrystalline cellulose manufacturing plant in Rayong, Thailand. The company also signed an agreement to acquire Pectine Italia S.p.A., which will become a part of FMC Bio Polymer business unit.

LycoRed Ltd. has received a European patent for its proprietary extraction process of the Lyc-O-Mato® oleoresin from tomatoes.

Nestlé is expanding its confectionery manufacturing plant in Ponda, Goa, India.

SensoryEffects Flavor Systems and Arps Dairy have formed a licensing agreement under which Arps will distribute the full line of SensoryEffects’ Fruit Juicers™ juice products.

Silliker has its flagship laboratory Silliker Solution Center in Crete, Ill.

Symrise AG has opened its Center of Excellence near São Paulo, Brazil. Research and development work is conducted at the facility.

Tate & Lyle has opened a new product development facility adjacent to a production plant in Roggernhorst, Germany.

Wacker has received approval from the European Commission for use of gamma-cyclodextrin as a novel food ingredient in the European Union.


Karen Nachay,
Associate Editor
[email protected]