The positive determination paves the way for final approval from the European Commission and EU Member States. EFSA’s full opinion can be found here.
The scientific dossier was based on several studies, including a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that involved 39 subjects who consumed a yogurt drink with 20% of the sugar replaced by oligofructose, according to Anke Sentko, vice president regulatory affairs & nutrition communication at BENEO.
Blood glucose and insulin response were measured and researchers found a significant difference related to both parameters, which clearly showed the benefits of a 20% sugar replacement, Ms. Sentko noted.
Other studies included in the dossier replaced higher percentages of sugar with oligofructose, demonstrating greater health benefits. “If you take them all together you clearly see a linearity,” Ms. Sentko said.
Action and Application
Non-digestible carbohydrates like oligofructose from chicory are resistant to hydrolysis and absorption in the small intestine and do not contribute to post-prandial glycemia. Oligofructose can be used to replace sugar in a range of food products, thereby lowering the glycemic response.
“Because oligofructose can be used in all kinds of applications and can be easily incorporated, there are a lot of opportunities for lower glycemic versions of foods that are normally high glycemic,” said Ms. Sentko, which is important in light of the health threats of obesity and diabetes.
“It’s not only about counting calories but also driving the metabolism in the right direction,” she added. “This gives consumers additional options to pick lower glycemic versions and also have fiber enrichment. This helps to overcome the fiber gap.”
In the next step on the way to an approved Article 13.5 health claim, the language product marketers may use will be determined in discussion between Member States and the Commission.
In its opinion, EFSA’s proposed wording was rather lengthy, according to Ms. Sentko, adding that while it reflects the science, it may not be consumer friendly. Any claim may resonate more effectively when combined with a well-being message and fiber content, she said.