EUROSTARCH is a European research project investigating the way in which different types of starch are digested and used in the body. It will study the specific effects of the glucose response, that is the level of glucose in the blood, after eating various starchy foods. The results will lead to the development of low GI 'functional' foods with improved health characteristics.
In recent decades a dramatic increase in the prevalence and incidence of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity has occurred in many parts of the world: these are currently major societal problems in Europe where many millions of consumers are affected by these conditions. Risk factors include obesity, physical inactivity and an energy dense diet, high in saturated fatty acids and low in dietary fibre. It is also likely that high intake of foods provoking a 'high glycemic response' so called high glycemic index (GI) foods - has a detrimental effect on health.
Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of the effect a food has on the level of glucose in the blood. Many differences in GI occur depending on the type of starch in the food, how it is cooked and processed. A high GI is related to a rapid increase in blood glucose shortly after eating starchy foods and, as a consequence, a sharp rise in insulin in the blood; neither of which are desirable.
For an optimal diet WHO recommendations that at least 55% of the total energy should be provided from a variety of carbohydrates, found in a wide range of foods such as cereals, bread, pulses, potatoes and fruits. But, what additional health benefits can be gained when following this advice by also selecting low GI starchy foods? EUROSTARCH aims to find out.
In 1997, an top level consultation of experts from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) about dietary carbohydrates recommended using the glycemic index to help make better food choices, particularly for those people who have problems controlling blood glucose levels, especially diabetics.
As yet there is little information about the effects of GI in the diet overall. GI is not well known among consumers, except those with diabetes who are becoming familiar with the concept.
There are few low GI foods available for breakfast, bread or snacks: more are needed especially those high in dietary fibre and low in energy density. Even so, GI should not be considered in isolation: other nutritional properties, such as the fat content and nutrient composition also need to be taken into account when making healthy food choices.
EUROSTARCH will investigate the health effects of low GI foods aiming to improve the overall glycemic response of starchy foods in the diet, thereby maximising the health benefits of a carbohydrate rich diet. As more is known about GI this can be applied to the way in which starchy foods are manufactured and processed, and more products can be developed that help to maintain a more stable and steady level of glucose in the blood.
The project will investigate several aspects in different workpackages. These will include detailed investigations about:
Of particular interest to consumers will be how the health benefits of high versus low GI starchy foods might be changed by food production processes.
Details of the individual workpackages will be available soon.
EUROSTARCH should result in improved techniques for measuring the digestion and fermentation of starch and the assessment of the 'metabolic quality' of starchy foods in healthy people and those with diabetes.
The results should provide the food industry with the scientific basis to develop new starch based low GI, functional foods. The knowledge gained from this research can be applied so that the negative impact of food processing techniques on GI can be minimised.
A key feature of EUROSTARCH is the dissemination of new information to key medical and health professionals, to consumers and particularly to those with related health problems such as diabetes. Appropriate food choices could be recommended to consumers, specifically based on new knowledge about the GI impact of starchy foods, which in turn should ultimately contribute to improved diet and health.
Sign up to the EUROSTARCH email communication list and we will send you more information as the project develops.
Who is involved?
Who is the coordinator?
The project is being funded with financial support from the European Commission under the Fifth Framework Programme of Research and Technical Development, specifically the Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources, Key Action 1 Food, Nutrition and Health.