Friday, August 16, 2013

Saffron, Bread & Diabetes: Rye Bread Does Not Even Have to be "Saffronized" to Help With Type II Diabetes

Saffron-rye breads? Not necessary, if you can achieve the same beneficial effects with nothing but rye bread alone.
The World Health Organization estimates that the diabetic population will increase from 195 to 360 million people by 2030 (4.5% of the global population; Wild. 2004; Shaw. 2010). Needless to say that it would be a real problem for a whole industry, if these prognoses did not come true. Against that background, it may not be such a problem that the results Bajerska et al. report in their recent paper in the Journal of Medicinal Food show that Saffron is not an uberpotent super-antidiabetic. What is however pretty interesting is the fact that the pharma- and the corn-industry could actually have a common interested in the world being fed wheat instead of rye bread.

Rye + Safron is not better than rye alone

When they were trying to come up with another (dys-)functional food, the researchers from the Poznan University of Life Sciences in Poland speculated that the addition of some expensive saffron powder that was extracted from S stigma (Crocus sativus) and contained 2% safranal as its purportedly active ingredient would exert anti-diabetic effects in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats on a high-fat (HF) diet.
Figure 1: Glucose management, antioxidant status and lipid management in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats after supplementation with either saffron (S), rye bread (RB) or both (RB+S) after 5 weeks (Bajerska. 2013)
Now what the researchers observed, when they added the saffron to the rye dough the bread that was part of the rodent chow was made of, was not exactly what they had expected. While the total phenolic content and total antioxidant value of the breads made from the dough increased linearly, the changes in lipid parameters, antioxidant capacity and leptin levels (figure 1) as well as the -50% reduction in blood glucose levels (not shown) were virtually identical with both the regular, as well as the "saffron enhanced" rye bread.
Pasta! From a satiety perspective even white bread would be a better choice (learn more).
"In relation to the aim of the current study, it is important to note that incorporation of S powder in the RB did not additionally improve the regeneration of damaged pancreas b-cells or the secretion of insulin, nor did it decrease blood glucose levels above that seen in the case of S powder and RB alone.

Moreover, it should be mentioned that the amounts of S powder added to the HF diet, and of S powder contained in RB added to the HF formula were matched to the similar dose of bioactive components." (Bajerska. 2013)
The scientists do however have a first hypothesis to explain the absence of synergistic effects in response to the saffron supplementation: The heat damage during the baking process. In the course of the latter the saffron-containing dough will be heated to temperatures way above the tolerable range of > 60 C° - a temperature at which a non-negligible fraction of the carotenoids in saffron begin to degrade. In conjunction with the low bio-accessible in the digestive tract may (in fact the latter is not much better than that of curcumin, cf. Vitaglione. 2012) being further decreased by the interactions and bindings with the processed food components of the bread (proteins and starch), this may in fact explain why the saffron didn't do the trick.

King or Pauper, who's breaking the fast "right" (learn more)?
Bottom line: If there was one take home message from the study at hand, it would probably read: Not all bread is created equal and not all bread is necessarily bad. In fact, the results of the study at hand are in line with previous research that supports the notion that part of a our problem with "bread" is that the assortment of E-numbers we call "bread" has little or nothing to do with what bakery has previously been all about. A classic sourdough rye bread, for example, can be consumed by celiac patients without side effects (Di Cagno. 2010) and its fiber content will have highly beneficial effects on the gut health of gluten-insensitive individuals (McIntosh. 2003).

Moreover, epidemiological data suggests that the consumption of rye could protect against cancers of the upper digestive tract and entails significant reductions in myocardial infarction, diabetes and ischaemic stroke risk ( Hallmans. 2003). So, if you don't want to join the current hysteria about bread being (yet another) root cause of all disease, and keep eating bread on a regular basis, it may not be the worst idea to switch from "W" as in wheat to "R" as in rye. And by the way, if you are into porridge, having some whole grain rye porridge for breakfast has been shown to have an 8h satiety effect (Isaksso. 2008) - certainly not bad, if you are one of those people who are having a hard time not to snack in between meals, right?

  • Bajerska J, Mildner-Szkudlarz S, Podgórski T, Oszmatek-Pruszyńska E. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) Powder as an Ingredient of Rye Bread: An Anti-Diabetic Evaluation. J Med Food. 2013 Aug 3. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Di Cagno R, Barbato M, Di Camillo C, Rizzello CG, De Angelis M, Giuliani G, De Vincenzi M, Gobbetti M, Cucchiara S. Gluten-free sourdough wheat baked goods appear safe for young celiac patients: a pilot study. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Dec;51(6):777-83.
  • Hallmans G, Zhang JX, Lundin E, Stattin P, Johansson A, Johansson I, Hultén K, Winkvist A, Aman P, Lenner P, Adlercreutz H. Rye, lignans and human health. Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 Feb;62(1):193-9. Review.
  • Isaksson H, Sundberg B, Aman P, Fredriksson H, Olsson J. Whole grain rye porridge breakfast improves satiety compared to refined wheat bread breakfast. Food Nutr Res. 2008;52.
  • Shaw JE, Sicree RA, Zimmet PZ: Global estimates of the prevalence of diabetes for 2010 and 2030.Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2010;87:4–14.
  • Vitaglione P, Barone Lumaga R, Ferracane R,et al.: Curcumin bioavailability from enriched bread: the effect of microencapsulated ingredients.J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60:3357–3366.
  • Wild S, Roglic G, Green A, Sicree R, King H: Global prevalence of diabetes: estimates for the year 2000 and projections for 2030. Diabetes Care. 2004;27:1047–1053