Staking a Health Claim - PulseResearch
April 25, 2017
Research on pulses, satiety, and blood glucose levels aims to help secure health claims for pulses in Canada
Pulses are generally known to be a major component of any healthy diet. They are an excellent source of fibre, carbohydrates, protein, and vitamins. There has also been consistent scientific evidence demonstrating a link between pulse consumption and a decreased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is especially important at a time when approximately two million Canadians are affected by Type 2 diabetes – a number that is only expected to rise.
Despite all we know about the health benefits of pulses, they still lack a health claim in Canada. This is because of the lack of data involving pulses and human health, information that is required to meet Health Canada’s regulations and substantiate health claims.
Researchers like Dr. Dan Ramdath, a Research Scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Guelph Food Research Centre, are working to remedy this situation. Along with his collaborators at AAFC, the University of Guelph, and the University of Manitoba, Dr. Ramdath is currently leading research funded under the AAFC Agri-Innovation Program that aims to establish a link between pulse consumption, satiety, and blood glucose management. More importantly, he aims to test this link in a way that meets Health Canada’s guidelines for research that supports health claims by combining compositional and physiochemical investigations of pulses with research that involves human trials and measures defined human response to pulse consumption.
“It is important to relate food structure and contents to their biological outcome. This has been highlighted by Health Canada as a major gap in the advancement of health claims in Canada,” Dr. Ramdath says. “The proposed human studies are consistent with Health Canada’s guidelines for producing high-quality studies for health claims. Research involving testing on humans is an important component to any study that aims to support health claims.”
Dr. Ramdath’s two-phased research will focus on common red lentil, green lentil, and yellow pea market varieties. In the first phase, he will analyze the nutritional composition of the chosen varieties and characterize their starch fractions and digestion profiles using established laboratory methods. These results will be used to select 16 varieties that have the best potential for blood glucose lowering and satiety in humans. The selected varieties will be tested in healthy human volunteers to assess their relative effectiveness in reducing blood glucose levels, which will be related to the nutritional composition of the chosen pulses. These results will provide a better understanding of how lentils and yellow peas lower blood glucose levels.
In the second phase, Dr. Ramdath will incorporate four of the 16 varieties into food matrices, which will then be tested in human volunteers to determine if the blood glucose lowering characteristic of yellow peas and lentils is maintained when they are incorporated into a food. He will also test satiety levels in humans as related to the different pulse varieties. “Satiety properties of lentils and yellow peas are important because this can influence the amount of food people consume, which in turn can influence dietary energy intake and weight loss,” he says.
Once all the research is complete, Dr. Ramdath is optimistic that there will be substantial, high-quality evidence to support a health claim submission for lentils and yellow peas in Canada. “If the chosen pulse varieties lower blood glucose by more than 20 per cent, this data could be included in a petition for a health claim on the blood glucose lowering of lentils and yellow peas.”
Beyond health claims, the research will also benefit pulse growers in Saskatchewan by identifying pulse varieties with the most enhanced health benefits, information that will be valuable when it comes time to make cropping and marketing plans for future years. “Pulse growers in Saskatchewan will benefit not only from increased domestic consumption from an approved health claim and commercialization of pulse-based foods with health benefits, but also from informed guidance for production of yellow pea and lentil market varieties,” Dr. Ramdath says.
SPG Investment: $281,747
Co-Funders: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada ($766,614)
Project Lead: Dr. Dan Ramdath, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Guelph Food Research Centre, and Adjunct Professor, Nutrition and Dietetics Centre, University of Saskatchewan