Beverages with Added Value

Alpha-Cyclodextrin as a Soluble Dietary Fiber

Functional foods have witnessed remarkable growth during the past few years, as consumers’ awareness of the relationship between a healthy, balanced diet and their own well-being or health status increases. Apart from the basic nutritional function of calorie intake, functional foods aim to provide physiological or even health benefits. Of the many ingredients used in functional foods today, dietary fibers have become a key ingredient for product formulators, since more and more consumers understand and embrace the concept that digestive health exerts a considerable influence on overall wellness and health. Consequently, the market for fiber-enhanced foods is expected to experience further growth.

Dietary fibers are an important component of a healthy human diet and can be divided into insoluble and soluble fibers. Generally, insoluble fibers refer to a variety of plant-derived products that are resistant to the human digestive system. They do not dissolve in water, but can absorb water, so they are a good bulking agent, speeding up transit time in the gut. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, turns into a gel-like substance as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Both fiber types are non-digestible, but are degraded by anaerobic bacteria in the colon. Numerous studies indicate that a diet rich in fibers of both kinds significantly reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, cardio-vascular diseases and obesity.

As a soluble dietary fiber, alpha-cyclodextrin shows high stability, low viscosity and has a positive effect on the blood cholesterol level. These properties make the ring-shaped glucose molecules increasingly interesting for functional applications in the beverage industry.

This article is available in full in the Spring 2012 issue of Nutraceuticals Now