Beans, beans; they are a magical legume indeed, especially when they come in the form of a water extract from the kidney bean Phaseolus vulgaris.
This extract, sold under the name Phase 2 by New Jersey-based Pharmachem Laboratories, has been on the market for five years now, and has been shown to inhibit the digestive enzyme alpha-amylase. Alpha-amylase is responsible for the digestion of complex carbohydrates, and slowing this digestive process lowers the glycaemic index of certain foods.
A nonstimulant, all-natural ingredient, Phase 2 is the first ingredient scientifically proven to neutralise starch in more than a dozen clinical trials. It has been shown to reduce the absorption of starch calories compared to placebo in a human pilot trial, and to reduce weight in two other clinical studies when used in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise programme.
Phase 2 has been sold in dozens of dietary supplements in the US, Canada and the European Union, and it's also utilised in a half-dozen supplements for the pet-foods market, by such industry leaders as Pet Naturals of Vermont. In May, the ingredient earned the much-coveted self-affirmed GRAS status.
Now, this year, Pharmachem has taken Phaseolus vulgaris to a whole new level with the introduction of the kidney-bean extract into functional-foods products, under a new brand name StarchLite.
In May, StarchLite was launched into a yoghurt product in South Korea by Nam Yang Dairy Products Co. The Dr Inssue yoghurt is now available in 20 per cent of all supermarkets in the country.
And now this fall, French Meadow Bakery in the US will be unveiling a Starch Watcher line of baked goods containing StarchLite, and Molinari Mills is launching a Carbolina pasta containing the ingredient.
"We are extremely pleased to see the market develop in this way," says Mitch Skop, director of new product development for Pharmachem. "We believe we will see many more foods and beverages containing StarchLite introduced in the near future."
Test recipes using the new ingredient have been developed for a wide range of baked goods, including breads, tortillas and pizza crusts. Sensory evaluations of those products by Tragon Corp, an independent research firm, showed that baked goods containing StarchLite compared favourably to traditional baked goods — and in some cases, were preferred over the traditional products.
The ingredient can be formulated into a variety of foods and beverages, including cereals, frozen foods, packaged meals, calorie-control snacks, pasta, pizza crust, soups and confectionery. As in studies conducted on Phase 2, studies on StarchLite demonstrate a reduction of the GI score of white bread with the addition of StarchLite. In one study, the GI was reduced by 20.23 points, or 39 per cent (see sidebar at right).