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Bread made from whole cell chickpea flour lowers blood sugar and increases fullness, research shows

young woman with glasses smiling
3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Chickpea flour in a wooden spoon, chickpeas on old wooden background

Replacing normal wheat flour with whole cell chickpea flour in bread can reduce blood sugar levels and keep you fuller for longer, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by scientists at King’s College of London School of Life Course and Population Sciences and the Quadram Institute, examined the impact of replacing regular wheat flour with ‘cellular chickpea flour’ on people’s feelings of fullness, satiety-regulating hormones, and glucose levels.

The study has been carried out alongside the design of a new pulse ingredient that is now being commercialised for the food industry, called PulseOn.  

Using a patented technology where gentle hydrothermal processing and mechanical disruption cooks the pulses and separates the whole pulse cells, the scientists developed a cellular chickpea flour that still contains the dietary fibre structure of whole pulses and can enrich flour-based foods.

According to the study, adding the PulseOn flour to bread increases the gut’s release of satiety signals to the brain, helping people feel fuller for longer after consumption.

The bread the team made contained 30% chickpea flour and was found to reduce blood sugar levels by 40% in comparison to white wheat flour bread. The scientists say this is because the starch in the whole cell flour breaks down more slowly as the body digests it.

Dr Cathrina Edwards, Research Leader at the Quadram Institute and Senior Author of the paper said: “We have long known that the structure of food can have a big impact on its nutritional value. This study is a promising example of how new ingredient structures can be used successfully to improve the metabolic and fullness effects of everyday food products. We hope that our findings will attract interest from food producers looking to improve the health credentials of their products.”

By improving feelings of fullness, the study authors say that switching to a cellular chickpea blend in commercial bread recipes could help people stop overeating. As the flour doesn’t cause as high a spike in blood sugar levels as normal white flour, it could also reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The scientists plan to figure out new ways to add the cellular chickpea blend into a range of starchy products as well as bread, but more research is needed to see if regular consumption of foods containing the ingredient can help people manage a healthy body weight or diabetes. As this study was carried out with healthy people, larger scale trials with a broader selection of individuals also need to be undertaken to test the ingredient’s efficiency.

First Author of the study Dr Balazs Bajka from King’s College London said: “We were impressed with the results we’ve seen in healthy individuals, and now would like to see how our cellular chickpea flour bread can help in the management of body weight or diabetes in larger scale dietary intervention trials with people who suffer with these conditions.”

There has been much effort to boost fibre consumption recently through the development of new ingredients that can improve the nutritional profile of low-fibre foods. Last year, researchers at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia announced they had successfully converted native starches such as wheat corn and cassava into a new ‘invisible’ dietary fibre product called FiberX.  

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