BioFach 2023: African plants show potential to combat obesity and reduce sugar intake
17 Feb 2023 --- One key trend spotted at BioFach 2023 was organic and natural products to battle the ongoing epidemic of obesity. African plants – herbs and fruits – were in the spotlight for their nutritional density while also being able to regulate insulin levels, blood sugar levels or modify taste receptors through sweetness enhancement.
NutritionInsight spoke with Loan Bensadon, CSO and co-founder of Baïa Food, about the DMB (dried miracle berry) – a novel food ingredient – made of the “miracle berry” from West Africa to modify taste perception, a natural sweet enhancer to reduce overall sugar intake.
“As we know, obesity and overweight are skyrocketing, and many alternatives are entering the market to reduce sugar intake, and DMB is one of them,” explains Bensadon.
We also spoke with Henry Johnson, director, and Gus Le Breton, African Plant Hunter at Baobab Exports, about the African superfruit and how it might benefit weight management.
Products for taste
Bensadon further detailed the “silent problem that has become louder” after the COVID-19 pandemic, as taste disorders impact people’s quality of life, which has driven the demand for taste-modifying products.
Additionally, dysgeusia – a taste disorder – is a common side effect of cancer treatment that has lacked being addressed, according to Bensadon.
“We see good results from our clinical trial in Madrid. After the pandemic, people have become more aware of taste disorders, which has increased the demand for such products. It has also increased for natural sweeteners compared to artificial sweeteners, which has demonstrated a detrimental effect on the microbiota and is not as healthy as promoted.”
“We are also looking to include DMB in beverages which is a challenge as it has to code your sweet receptors, but we are getting there, and we are a science-based company investing in research and development,” Bensadon underscored.
As for the superfruit baobab, Le Breton said, “this is the only fruit in the world that is naturally dry on the tree and comes out as a powder. We also use the seeds as oil for cosmetics, but the powder is very nutrient dense and high energy.”
Further detailing that the company recently launched an organic purée as many food and beverage companies are not used to dealing with powders.
“They are more used to dealing with fruit in a liquid form, so we decided to make baobab available as a purée,” said Le Breton.
Johnson continued to detail that the soluble dietary fiber content of the fruit is “what they are mainly excited about.”
“It seems like most current research is focused on the prebiotic effect of fat-soluble fiber. Last year, Ghent University in Belgium released a research study showing that the soluble fiber content of baobab has as powerful a prebiotic effect as inulin. Inulin is widely considered the gold standard prebiotic fiber on the market,” Johnson elaborated.
“What was a standout point in the study was that it only took half the dose to elicit the same response. So we like to say that baobab is twice as full of prebiotics as inulin.”
Johnson shared that other health benefits are tied to the fruit’s high fiber content, which also showed in another study that it has a glycemic moderating effect.
“What that means is that when baobab is consumed with carbohydrates such as white bread, it helps to moderate the insulin spikes you get when consuming such products. The effects were seen when the fruit was consumed separately in a smoothie or baked into the bread. This is particularly relevant for people with Type 2 diabetes or weight management.”
Le Breton adds that the shown powerful glycemic effect was so strong in the study that the researchers said it “could not be simply attributed to the fiber.” He said that the researchers speculate that polyphenols in baobab also stimulate this added value glycemic response moderating activity.
We also spoke with Kyle Janse van Rensburg, general manager at Skimmelberg, about the South African plant Buchu.
“Buchu is a herb that the world doesn’t know much about yet. It has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties while being a natural product without anything added.”
Janse van Rensburg further flagged that it is rich in antioxidants, and when consumed as a tea, it also lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
By Beatrice Wihlander
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