, Volume 405, Issue 13, pp 4591-4605
Date: 19 Feb 2013

Innovative analytical tools to characterize prebiotic carbohydrates of functional food interest

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Abstract

Functional foods are one of the most interesting areas of research and innovation in the food industry. A functional food or functional ingredient is considered to be any food or food component that provides health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Recently, consumers have shown interest in natural bioactive compounds as functional ingredients in the diet owing to their various beneficial effects for health. Water-soluble fibers and nondigestible oligosaccharides and polysaccharides can be defined as functional food ingredients. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin are resistant to direct metabolism by the host and reach the caecocolon, where they are used by selected groups of beneficial bacteria. Furthermore, they are able to improve physical and structural properties of food, such as hydration, oil-holding capacity, viscosity, texture, sensory characteristics, and shelf-life. This article reviews major innovative analytical developments to screen and identify FOS, inulins, and the most employed nonstarch carbohydrates added or naturally present in functional food formulations. High-performance anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed electrochemical detection (HPAEC-PED) is one of the most employed analytical techniques for the characterization of those molecules. Mass spectrometry is also of great help, in particularly matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS), which is able to provide extensive information regarding the molecular weight and length profiles of oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Moreover, MALDI-TOF-MS in combination with HPAEC-PED has been shown to be of great value for the complementary information it can provide. Some other techniques, such as NMR spectroscopy, are also discussed, with relevant examples of recent applications. A number of articles have appeared in the literature in recent years regarding the analysis of inulin, FOS, and other carbohydrates of interest in the field and they are critically reviewed.

Published in the topical collection Nutraceuticals and Separations with guest editor Luigi Mondello.