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The folate content of malted products - Strategies for improvement

HGCA PROJECT REPORT 321

The folate content of malted products - Strategies for improvement

by

C WALKER

Brewing Research International, Lyttel Hall, Coopers Hill Road, Redhill, Surrey RY1 4HY

OCTOBER 2003

Abstract

Functional, health-enhancing foods are a hot topic. Consumers are avidly searching for foods that are natural sources of nutrients and vitamins so that they can live healthier lives. While it's fairly common knowledge that cereals are a good source of vitamins, it's often not realised that malted cereals are a much better source. Malting, or germination, is in fact an ancient technique for increasing the nutritional value of seeds and it is a tradition that the maltster continues to this day.

From a scientific standpoint, we can generalise and say that during germination the growing seedling makes vitamins. However, more specific information on this topic is not available and questions such as how malting conditions or seed variety may affect this process remain something of a mystery. The aim of this project was therefore to investigate how conditions from the field to the maltings can affect this process of vitamin enhancement during malting. For this project just one vitamin, folate (or B9) was selected for study, since it is one of the vitamins most likely to be lacking in Western diets, and foods that are naturally rich in this vitamin are of particular interest.

A survey of commercial malt samples revealed that folate contents in the range 2-4 mg folate/ kg, for these products were typical. This level is 3-4 fold higher than the levels of folate in unmalted cereals. The highest folate values were measured in high diastatic potential malts (average 4 mg folate/ kg), and also in the maltings co-product roots - which contained folate levels up to 10 times that of commercial malts! This suggested that both high diastatic potential malts and roots might be of interest to the functional food market, and that there is an opportunity for the malting industry to consider the 'added value' that folate content makes to these products. Since roots are a co-product, the financial benefits of this strategy could be significant.

The project also looked at the factors that affect the increase of folate on malting. In the field, higher application of nitrogen was linked to higher folate levels in the malt, whereas seedrate and fungicide application were not influential. Also, there was a genetic influence on this process in that some varieties produced more folate on malting than others. In our pilot maltings, small-scale work also suggested that the extent of germination was an influential factor on folate content.

In summary, in the current climate of interest in health foods, the malting process has a lot to offer in the development of high value products. Malt itself has been shown by this project to be of high nutritional value. In addition, by selection of barley variety, growing and malting conditions, there is scope for the UK cereal industry to develop novel products for the functional foods market.

HGCA Project Number: 2366
Price: £4.50

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