Nestle is teaming up with the Cleveland Clinic research center to conduct what it says will be amongst the largest controlled studies on the benefits of whole grains.
The Swiss firm’s research center has pumped $500,000 into the project, which it says it will use to build the scientific substantiation and the marketing communication of its whole grain products globally.
The primary focus of the study will be the impact of whole grains on body fat and body composition. Secondary outcomes will look at other metabolic components, including cholesterol, glucose and insulin.
“We know that whole grains are healthy, but evidence has been quite moderate, partly because most studies so far have been epidemiological, and partly because the intervention trials are often not well-designed, with diets not being well controlled,” said Dr Takoua Debeche, science and technology manager for the Nestlé Food Business.
“The study we’re conducting is a very well controlled crossover study, where we’ll control the entire diet of the subjects and we’ll be using state of the art technologies to examine health benefits, in particular body composition,” she told NutraIngredients-USA.com.
The 26-week study will involve between 40 and 50 participants, who will eat commercially available meals provided by Nestle Prepared Food Company.
During the first phase, one of the group’s diets will include most of their carbohydrate coming from whole grains, while the other will receive carbohydrates mainly from refined grains.
The second phase will see the two groups switching diets, to eliminate any misleading impact of individuals’ physiologies on the findings.
“This research will be one of the largest controlled studies of its type on whole grains and the first to use advanced body composition measurement techniques such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) that are used at the Cleveland Clinic,” said Nestle.
The researchers will also use metabolomic analyses to examine changes in metabolism. Metabolomics is an integrative approach to metabolism, which looks at organisms in a coherent way in order to help maintain health and prevent disease.
The technology measures changes to any metabolic end-points via biological samples such as blood, urine or saliva. It forms part of Nestle’s wider focus on nutritional metabonomics, which it uses to understand individuals’ metabolic responses to different nutrients.
Benefits and product development
Nestle has already completed a two-week pilot study on whole grains, which has been submitted for publication, and which revealed that whole grain consumption reduced LDL cholesterol, improved insulin sensitivity and reduced total body fat.
“Our objective with the long-term study is to confirm these benefits, with a focus on the reduction in body fat and particularly abdominal fat,” said Dr Debeche.
Participants are being recruited this month. Preliminary data is expected by the end of the year, with final results expected at the end of 2011.
The findings will be used to add weight to Nestle’s communication on the benefits of its whole-grain containing products. The firm is planning to launch new whole grain ready meals under its Lean Cuisine and Stouffer’s brands, which it expects will be on shelves in the US within the next 12 months.