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Monday, August 24, 1998 Published at 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK


Fake fat can ward off heart disease

New product contains the healthy fibre found naturally in barley

Scientists have developed a "body friendly" fat substitute which is good for the heart.

The new product, to be marketed as Nu-Trim, contains high concentrations of naturally occurring substances known to lower types of cholesterol which have been linked to heart disease.

The active ingredient, beta-glucans, are soluble fibres found in oats and barley. They can help reduce potentially harmful LDL cholesterol and may also play a role in regulating blood sugar levels.

Custom design

Nu-Trim is the first fat substitute designed specifically to meet US Food and Drug Administration requirements for food products that can be advertised as good for the heart.

Inventor Dr George Inglett, a chemist at the US Department of Agriculture, has worked on oat and barley-based fat substitutes for the past 10 years and has developed two previous products, Oatrim and Z-Trim.

Oatrim is widely used in the food industry, and Z-Trim is in the process of being licensed. But neither of these products qualify for a "heart-healthy" label.

Better than nature

Due to the way it is processed, Nu-Trim makes more soluble beta-glucans available to the digestive system than does a comparable amount of whole-grain oats or barley.

Studies show that when Nu-Trim was fed to laboratory animals it reduced total plasma cholesterol by 27%; and their LDL cholesterol by 36%.

The reduction exceeded that in animals fed unprocessed oats.

Dr Inglett said Nu-Trim could help to transform treats like cookies, cakes and creamy desserts into low-calorie, high-fibre foods.

Breakthrough for diabetics

Studies indicate that beta-glucans lower and steady the production of insulin, released by the pancreas in response to glucose intake, by forming gels that slow the absorption of the glucose from the intestine.

This could be a significant advantage for patients who already choose fat-free or low-fat foods for weight control, an important factor in the treatment of some forms of diabetes.

Added moisture

Speaking at a meeting of the American Chemical Association, biscuit manufacturer David Busken said adding Nu-Trim to his products gave them extra body and added moisture.

Catherine Reynolds, external relations manager for the Institute of Food Research, said there was strong evidence that increasing the amount of fibre in a diet was beneficial.

But she added: "What concerns me is that consumers are prepared to spend money buying these products, when they could make natural adjustments to their diet at much less expense."

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