Research on common breakfast cereal grains has uncovered new possibilities for preventing cancer and diabetes.
Dr Osaana Donkor from the Advanced Food Systems Research Unit identified the health benefits of bread and cereal grains, then went on to uncover how those benefits increased greatly after germination.
In the Sanitarium-funded trial Dr Donkor and his team analysed the bioactive compounds and antioxidants in barley, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, rye, sorghum and wheat.
The research identified high levels of anti-oxidants, which act by mopping-up the reactive oxygen that can cause genetic deformation and cancer in cells.
Dr Donkor, an analytical chemist, also identified arabinoxylan carbohydrates, which have been reported to improve metabolic control in people with type 2 diabetes.
While the presence of these compounds was expected, the breakthrough came when comparing their levels in grains before and after germination. The research team found all these compounds with major health benefits were present in much greater amounts after the seed germinated.
"We saw how inbuilt indigenous enzymes start releasing these compounds in germination, essentially unlocking the energy built within these food materials," he said.
"This means through germination we can increase the nutritional components of these grains and in turn improve the nutritional value of breakfast cereals by making them germinate before being dried for use," he said. "This could have a major public health impact in helping prevent cancer and diabetes."
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