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How PulseON flour can improve food nutrition and gut health

31 May 2023

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Scientists from the Quadram Institute at Norwich Research Park have developed a unique patented food ingredient made from pulses that they hope will help improve our gut health.

The health benefits of pulses are on the menu with a range of favourite foods thanks to an innovative new ingredient called PulseON®, developed by researchers at the Quadram Institute at Norwich Research Park and King’s College London. Pulses like chickpeas, beans and lentils are a great source of fibre and protein. Flours made from pulses can make healthier alternatives to refined cereal flours.

In collaboration with New Food Innovation Ltd, the researchers found that the milling process commonly used to make pulse flours damages the cell wall structures that are the source of some of the major health benefits.

In 2021, PulseON Foods Ltd was formed by the Quadram Institute and New Food Innovation to support the commercialisation of its unique, whole-cell pulse flour. The companies developed a patented alternative milling process to produce PulseON® that, unlike other pulse flours, preserves more of the naturally beneficial whole cell fibre structure.

It means that foods made with PulseON® are slower to digest, providing slow-release energy while delivering resistant starch and fibre to the gut microbiome. In recent human clinical trials, substituting wheat flour with PulseON® flour reduced the blood glucose response to white bread by 40%. It also prolonged feelings of fullness by triggering the hormones we release to control our appetite.

The whole-cell PulseON® flour will give food manufacturers a new ingredient that can be used to improve the nutritional value of staple foods including bread, pasta and snack products, in alternative meat products, or as a functional ingredient in sauces. It can also support popular food trends such as clean-label, sustainability, plant-based and gut-health areas.

Dr Cathrina Edwards, of PulseON Foods Ltd and group leader at the Quadram Institute said: “Our patented PulseON® whole-cell pulse flour is founded on more than six years of scientific research by academics at the internationally renowned King’s College London and here at the world-class Quadram Institute at Norwich Research Park.

“This collaborative research is supported by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which invests in projects that will push back the frontiers of biology and deliver a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future.”

Dr Edwards’s research at the Quadram Institute focuses on understanding how legumes and other starch-rich foods are biochemically and structurally broken-down during digestion. Recent human studies show that intact plant cells that are found in whole foods, help to slow the release of nutrients and calories from food during gastrointestinal transit.

“This research is highly relevant to tackling diet-related disease, particularly malnutrition, obesity and type 2 diabetes,” she said. “I am actively pursuing opportunities for translation of research findings, for instance working with the food industry to develop new, altered food structures that deliver improved nutritional profiles.

“We are very fortunate to be based at Norwich Research Park. Not only do we have world-class facilities and some of the top researchers in the world to work with, we can also tap into support from Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP for help with funding, contacts and space to grow.

“We are at that exciting stage where we are certain that our product is fit for market and we can now work on scaling up the business to employ more people and meet the expected increase in demand for our flour,” Dr Edwards added. “There is plenty of space for companies like ours to grow and flourish here and we can’t wait to start on the next phase of our growth.”

Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, said: “When we set up the new campus-wide Enterprise Strategy for Norwich Research Park, we hoped that this would encourage new commercial opportunities to spin-out of our research community. The results of our initial pilot year have exceeded everyone’s expectations, as we are now working with just under 20 groups involved in business start-up activity.

“PulseON is a really exciting new company, spinning out of the research community. We are proud to be able to help them and will do all we can to help them stay and grow at the campus.

“Not only does the work of new companies like PulseON create new jobs and contribute to the success of the local economy, but what’s really rewarding about this spin-out activity at Norwich Research Park is that the research – and therefore the subsequent business ideas coming out of that research – is about helping to address the world’s problems: human health, climate change and feeding a growing global population.”

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