Oat and barley in the food supply and use of beta glucan health claims
Beta glucan is a type of soluble dietary fibre found in oats and barley with known cholesterol-lowering benefits. Many countries globally have an approved beta glucan health claim related to lowering blood cholesterol, an important biomarker for cardiovascular disease. However, the use of these claims has not been examined. The aim of this study was to explore the range and variety of oat and barley products in the Australian and global market within a defined range of grain food and beverage categories and examine the frequency of beta glucan health claims. Australian data were collected via a recognised nutrition audit process from the four major Australian supermarkets in metropolitan Sydney (January 2018 and September 2020) and Mintel Global New Product Database was used for global markets where a claim is permitted. Categories included breakfast cereals, bread, savoury biscuits, grain-based muesli bars, flour, noodles/pasta and plant-based milk alternatives and information collected included ingredients lists and nutrition and health claims. Products from Australia (n = 2462) and globally (n = 44,894) were examined. In Australia, 37 products (1.5%) made use of the beta glucan claim (84% related to oat beta glucan and 16% related to barley beta glucan, specifically BARLEYmax®). Of products launched globally, 0.9% (n = 403) displayed beta glucan cholesterol-lowering claims. Despite the number of products potentially eligible to make beta glucan claims, their use in Australia and globally is limited. The value of dietary modification in cardiovascular disease treatment and disease progression deserves greater focus, and health claims are an opportunity to assist in communicating the role of food in the management of health and disease. Further assessment of consumer understanding of the available claims would be of value.
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