Journey: From the poor guar to rich nutraceutical

09 June 2016 | Column | By Dr DBA Narayana

In the May issue a journey from botanical to supplement was covered giving larger aspects along with an example of Nutraceutical from tea. It was also committed that this theme would be expanded.
All of us  have  enjoyed  one  of the bean  like vegetable, commonly  considered to be the poor cousin of the regular  beans  not  so much  liked by all, namely guar (Botanically - Cyam- opsis tetragonoloba, called as gorikai in Kannada, guar phalli in Hindi). Delicious dishes are made of this highly fibrous vegetable. In South India it is made as a dry vegetable along with grated coconuts and garnished with a few lentils, mustard, spices and salt.
It’s also used in sambar as a vegetable. In North India it is one of the mixed vegetables curry though not so common.  Perhaps  its high  fibre content comes  in the  way and  only those  who  know how  to  make  this vegetable can cook guar well. No one wants to eat and keep badly cooked guar taking out constantly with each morsel some fibres which are difficult to swallow.
According to the ICMR book of nutritional values guar also known as cluster beans are rich in minerals, crude fibres, calcium, phosphorous, carotene, folates and Vitamin C. There is a large industry that revolves around the seeds of guar. highly ripe guar is harvested, the seeds are taken out and dried. This is the starting point for it to become a source for ingredient that works as a cash crop.
Guar gum- the guar seeds are de- husked, cooked, mashed and by different technologies the gums are precipitated. This gum is then taken through a few steps of cleaning and concentration finally getting it as a dry powder.
The intension is to get guar gum that gives different viscosities and ability to thicken preparations. Guar gum powder is available as high viscosity grade, medium viscosity grade and going up to ultralow viscosity. Since it does not have any unwanted taste as well as fairly stable in changing pH medium guar gum finds use in many industries spanning from food to pharma to cosmetics.
Guar gum derivatives different grades of guar gum are further processed by chemical synthesis/attachment of side chains/making salts to obtain specific and more effective properties. Verities that are complexed with either methyl or ethyl groups are available. The most popular derivative is quaternary guar derivative which are available in a range for different uses. Next time you apply a well-conditioned shampoo remembers the conditioner could be one of the quaternary guar derivative. It is also a very good gelling agent.
Guar fibres during these processing one can harvest by-products of fibre rich fractions. Such fractions are useful to increase the crude fibre or soluble fibre or insoluble fibres content in food supplements. The large body of evidence on health benefits of regular consumption of high fibre diets are well known  and  the  poor  guar could be one source.
Compressed  tablets  could  be  made using a mixture of guar gum, guar fibres along with other fillers and such tablets  are used  as supplements re- placing 1/3 or ½ of one meal thereby reducing  calorie intake and is useful in  weight   management  products Adding such combinations to dietary products   can help  reduce  appetite as these  fibres swell in the  stoma giving a feeling of fullness and help reduce over eating.
Often one wants to know the difference between a supplement and nutraceutical.  One  of the  clear  distinguishing  feature  is nutraceutical are  mostly  purified  fractions  which contain a single chemical compound or at the most a characteristic sing group of compounds.
Equally large  body  of evidence  has emerged  in  the  last  decade   or  so where ‘inulin’ and its role as a prebiotic has been  demonstrated. Amongst several  sources   poor   guar   is  also a source  for inulin which  is now  a well-accepted  prebiotic  and used  as a nutraceutical.
This write up makes it look so simple which it is not. This journey from a vegetable to  a  number   of  value added ingredients  and products continue to be innovative science spanning across technologies, processing, chemistry, safety and efficacy studies engaging the best of minds of scientists. Manufacture of guar gum and its derivatives used to happen in India in large scale bringing benefits to the country. Large exports of guar seeds continue to happen.
Indian chemical, pharmaceutical and food industry must look at the emerging supplements and nutraceutical market not just in formulating ready available ingredients but investing and getting into making these ingredients. A large number of herbs are known in India for their health   benefits.  What are the bioactive compounds and what are the compounds that can be useful to food and nutra industry is known for only less than 5% of these herbs. Isn’t it a fertile area for investment and innovations?

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