Putting PUFAs into cereal products

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Researchers have been looking into adding polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to boost the health properties of cereal products.

Cereal grains are a rich of both proteins and carbohydrates, but they contain low levels of fats, compared to most other seed crops. On average their fat content is less than 4 per cent of total calorific value.

PUFAs are seen as health-giving – especially the omega-3 and omega-6 ones – so there could be benefits in adding these to cereal products, and even balancing the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.

Scientists are looking to make the PUFA´s in-situ, using microbial fermentation processes under controlled conditions. The use of solid state fermentation (SSF) to achieve this deliberately, using selected micro-organisms – chosen for their ability to develop specific PUFAs, – to grow on moist whole grains, could be a relatively inexpensive way of adding value to conventional food grains, by enhancing PUFA content.

Researchers at the Slovak University of Technology, Bratislava, have found that certain lower filamentous fungi were able to do this successfully, opening up the prospect of preparing “tailor made” cereal products with a desired fatty acid composition.

They have produced wheat grains with enhanced content of GLA (gamma linolenic acid), and incorporated this “wheat-GLA bioproduct” into flours for making bread rolls, other bakery products and pasta.

However, elevated levels of the GLA-wheat product (above 5 per cent or so of the flour blend) led to reductions in dough rise, darkening and reduced crispness in the crust, and a typical “fungal” flavour.