Using science to develop functional food formulations

Monash University

Monday, 12 April, 2021

Using science to develop functional food formulations

Researchers have determined how certain processed foods could trigger chronic kidney disease, and how a starch fibre could help to provide a solution. The findings could enable the development of alternative food formulations that could switch off the body’s inflammatory response.

The study by Monash University showed that a diet high in processed foods can bring on leaky gut syndrome, which increases the risk of kidney disease.

The findings revealed that harmful chemical compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), triggered by a process called the Maillard reaction, switch on the body’s danger signals, leading to an inflammatory response and chronic kidney disease. But by introducing foods containing a specialised fibre, the effects can be improved.

These AGEs, found in heat-treated or processed food, give browned, roasted, fried, grilled and baked foods their flavour and aroma.

Food chemists have been isolating these chemical compounds and placing them in processed foods for years, such as potato chips, bread, bakery products, chocolate and confectionery products.

The rodent-based study, published in Science Advances and led by Associate Professor Melinda Coughlan from Monash Central Clinical School, showed the inflammatory response could be switched off by introducing foods containing high-resistant starch fibres, restoring gut health and improving kidney health.

Foods high in resistant starch fibre include oats, cooked and cooled rice, barley, legumes such as black beans and peas, raw potato starch (as a supplement), cooked and cooled potatoes, and hi-maise resistant starch supplement. These foods are essential as they get down into the lower gut and serve as food for gut bacteria. The gut bacteria ferment the food, producing anti-inflammatory metabolites.

“Now that we have shown that it is certain chemical compounds found in highly processed foods that play a role in chronic kidney disease, we can look to make alternative food formulations or functional foods aimed at dampening the body’s response,” said Associate Professor Coughlan.

“Given the increasing interest in the effects of processed food on health, we believe that these findings represent an important step towards understanding and countering the detrimental features of the modern diet.

“Dietary change, as with most behaviour change, can be difficult to maintain long term, but by adding more foods high in resistant starch fibre and steaming and stewing cooking practices, we can help dampen the harmful effects.”

A clinical trial is now in planning for this year, to give people with early diabetic kidney disease resistant starch-supplemented food to study its effects on kidney health.

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