Purdue University food science Professor Srinivas Janaswamy has found inserting "guest" molecules into the natural structure of potato starch causes glucose to be released more slowly during digestion, the university reported Monday.
Such slow, sustained release could help prevent Type 2 diabetes and other health problems associated with elevated blood glucose levels, Janaswamy said.
"Embedding molecules in the water pockets of starch is a simple and practical way of tweaking starch digestion," he said. "Having the ability to slow down the digestion of starch would revolutionize the way we approach a number of health issues."
Quick absorption of starch by the body can lead to a faster accumulation of glucose in the blood, one of the conditions that can cause the chronic ailment that affects the way the body metabolizes glucose.
Embedding "guest" molecules in raw potato starch significantly altered starch digestion rates, in some cases slowing the release of glucose by 22 percent during the initial 120 minutes of digestion, Janaswamy found.
"We're not chemically modifying starch in any way," he said. "We're taking advantage of its native structural arrangement at the molecular level to alter digestion rates."
Developing food products with controlled starch digestion could be a positive step in preventing Type 2 diabetes at minimal cost, he said.
"We will now be in a position to tailor treatments to patients by developing starch products with customized glucose release rates."