Dietary carbohydrate characterization should reflect relevant nutritional and functional attributes, and be measured as chemically identified components. A nutritional classification based on these principles is presented, with a main grouping into ‘available carbohydrates’, which are digested and absorbed in the small intestine providing carbohydrates for metabolism, and ‘resistant carbohydrates’, which resist digestion in the small intestine or are poorly absorbed/metabolized. For the available carbohydrates, the chemical division into the starch and total sugars categories does not adequately reflect the physiological or nutritional attributes of foods. Characterizing carbohydrate release from starchy foods provides insight into some of the inherent mechanisms responsible for the varied metabolic effects. Also, a pragmatic approach to product signposting consistent with guidelines to limit free (or added) sugars is proposed. The most prominent of the resistant carbohydrates are the non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) from plant cell walls, which are characteristic of the largely unrefined plant foods that provide the evidence base for the definition and measurement of dietary fibre as ‘intrinsic plant cell-wall polysaccharides’ as proposed in conjunction with this paper and endorsed by the scientific update. Indigestibility in the small intestine was not considered to be an adequate basis for the definition of dietary fibre, as there is insufficient evidence to establish public health policy by this approach and concerns have been raised about potential detrimental effects of high intakes of rapidly fermentable resistant carbohydrates. Functional ingredients such as resistant starch and resistant oligosaccharides should therefore be researched and managed separately from dietary fibre, using specific health or function claims where appropriate. This structured approach to the characterization of nutritionally relevant features of dietary carbohydrates provides the basis for establishing population reference intakes, nutrition claims and food labelling that will assist the consumer with properly informed dietary choices.
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Mutations in sorghum SBEIIb and SSIIa affect alkali spreading value, starch composition, thermal properties and flour viscosity
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We wish to thank Professor Nils-Georg Asp, Professor John H Cummings, Professor Timothy Key, Professor Jim Mann, Professor HH Vorster and Dr Roger Wood for the valuable comments they provided on the earlier manuscript.
Conflict of interest
During the preparation and peer-review of this paper in 2006, the authors and peer-reviewers declared the following interests.
Dr Klaus Englyst: Director and share-holder in Englyst Carbohydrates Ltd which is a small research-oriented company working on dietary carbohydrates and health. The UK Food Standards Agency is the main research partner and sponsor. In addition, Englyst Carbohydrates provide analytical assistance to universities and food industry worldwide, albeit on a small scale. The complete independence of Englyst Carbohydrates is maintained by not entering into any consultancy agreement.
Professor Simin Liu: Member of the Scientific advisory board for the EU Health Grain Project.
Dr Hans Englyst: Director and share-holder in Englyst Carbohydrates Ltd which is a small research-oriented company working on dietary carbohydrates and health. The UK Food Standards Agency is the main research partner and sponsor. In addition, Englyst Carbohydrates provide analytical assistance to universities and food industry worldwide, albeit on a small scale. The complete independence of Englyst Carbohydrates is maintained by not entering into any consultancy agreement.
Professor Nils-Georg Asp: On part-time leave from university professorship to be the Director of the Swedish Nutrition Foundation (SNF), a nongovernmental organization for the promotion of nutrition research and its practical implications. SNF is supported broadly by the food sector; the member organizations and industries are listed on the SNF home page (www.snf.ideon.se).
Professor John H Cummings: Chairman, Biotherapeutics Committee, Danone; Member, Working Group on Foods with Health Benefits, Danone; funding for research work at the University of Dundee, ORAFTI (2004).
Professor Timothy Key: None declared.
Professor Jim Mann: None declared.
Professor HH Vorster: Member and Director of the Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary health Research (AUTHeR), Research grant from the South African Sugar Association
Dr Roger Wood: None declared.
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Englyst, K., Liu, S. & Englyst, H. Nutritional characterization and measurement of dietary carbohydrates. Eur J Clin Nutr 61 (Suppl 1), S19–S39 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602937
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