Chemicals or Enzymes? Pigging Out on Starch Ingredients May Hold the Answer

Piglet Eating a Sandwich The food industry often uses chemically modified starches (CMS) to “enhance” food products.  CMS are used to change the gooeyness of a food ingredient and are used in a variety of products ranging from lunch meats and juices to baked goods and biofuels. Manufacturers like modified starches because they hold up better under conditions such as repeated heating and acidity. The methods used in chemically modified starches vary but often use chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, acetic anhydride, propylene oxide or types of phosphates such as sodium trimetaphosphate. One of the effects of chemically modified starches in foods is that the starch becomes less digestible. Recent studies (1, 2) using enzymes as an alternative to modify starch ingredients revealed an interesting effect in animal models. Enzyme modified starch (EMS) fed to growing pigs indicated a beneficial reduction in certain types of fat found in the blood. Other effects observed with EMS were better absorption of proteins. The changes occurred rapidly - within 7 days after eating the enzyme modified starches. The authors suggested that ingestion of the enzyme modified starch showed potential to decrease the rise of serum lipids (fats in the blood) after eating a meal. It is not yet understood why starch modified enzymatically presents more benefits to digestive health than using harsh chemicals. I hope food manufacturers take note of such studies and consider the use of enzyme modified starch as a means of making their products healthier.
  1. Metzler-Zebeli BU; Eberspacher E; Grull D; and Zebeli Q: Enzymatically modified starch ameliorates postprandial serum triglycerides and lipid metabolome in growing pigs.  PLoS One 10(6): e0130553, June 15, 2016.
  1.  Metzler-Zebeli BU; Schmitz-Esser S; Mann E; Grull D; and Zebeli Q.  Adaptation of the cecal bacterial microbiome of growing pigs in response to resistant starch type 4.  Appl Environ Microbiol. 81(24):8489-99, Dec 15, 2015.