The Measure: One company’s ongoing interest in the development of measurement and test kits.

By Barry V. McCleary, Technical Director and Co-Owner, Megazyme International Ireland.

One of the major health issues facing the West today is obesity and the resulting health problems of diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD). Obesity is associated with lack of exercise and with the over consumption of foods, particularly those high in readily digestible carbohydrates. While these readily digestible carbohydrates (high glycaemic carbohydrates) cause a fast peak in blood sugar, other carbohydrates, identified as dietary fiber (low glycaemic carbohydrates), are slowly digested and result in more balanced blood sugar levels. While good methods have been developed for dietary fiber, these now need to be reviewed in light of the recognition that resistant starch and non-digestible oligosaccharides function as dietary fiber. Furthermore, simple and specific methods for the rapid measurement of the group of carbohydrates defined as ‘digestible’ are required. Another useful development would be an in vitro analytical method that simulates the in vivo glycemic index measurement.

While the initial focus of the company was in the development of procedures for the measurement of carbohydrates and enzymes of importance in the processing of plant products (mainly grains and seed), this has evolved over the years. An ongoing interest in the company has been the development, validation and supply of test technology for the measurement of dietary fiber and specific fiber components such as – glucan, fructan, (inulin, FOS) and resistant starch. Current interests focus on developing improved dietary fiber assay procedures as well as methods for the specific measurement of available carbohydrates or ‘net carbohydrates’ in association with the demand for low carbohydrate (‘Low Carb’) foods.

Many of the company’s test methods have undergone inter-laboratory evaluation and five of these are now AOAC International Official Methods, namely β-Glucan (AOAC method 995.16), Total Starch (AOAC Method 996.11), Fructan (AOAC Method 999.03), Resistant Starch (AOAC Method 2002.02) and α-Amylase-Ceralpha method (AOAC Method 2002.01). These and other methods are recommended procedures of several other scientific associations and industry bodies. More than 90 percent of the Megazyme products were researched and developed in-house using carbohydrates and enzymes purified from either the primary source or from industrial enzyme preparations.

In late 2002, the company realized that to be able to provide a full range of test kit possibilities for the food and related industries, it would need to develop new platform technologies. A molecular biology division was therefore established to allow the production of a range of recombinant enzymes previously not commercially available. This development has allowed the company to improve the existing technology for the currently available test kits for the wine, dairy and food industries.

Over the past two years, Megazyme has launched a pipeline of test kits for the measurement of analytes such as L-malic acid, Dmalic acid, acetic acid, L-lactic acid, D-lactic acid, hydroxybutyric acid, D-isocitric acid, L-glutamic acid, ethanol, acetaldehyde, glycerol, sorbitol, D-fructose, lactose and D-galactose. Parallel to this, it has identified other analytes for which a rapid enzymic procedure was required and has already developed procedures for D-mannitol, aspartame, glucomannan and trehalose. Other test procedures are currently under development.

Read the article on the GDS Site

Publication Name:  US Food Safety & Nutrition 2
Publication Date: January 2005