Innovation in noodle production could help fight diabetes in Asia
A team at Curtin University intends to find a way to add protein to the wheat prior to its growth, to produce naturally occurring protein within the crop.
One of the researchers, Carly Bourgy, told Australian media: "The (more) protein you add will make the food digest slower in your body and break down slower, so you don't get a rise in blood glucose."
This will in turn minimise diabetes risk for those who consume such noodles.
At the same time, the added protein will make the noodles firmer, thereby minimising the sogginess most people dread.
There is also a possibility that such noodles would not only be a more nutritious alternative, but also taste better.
Curtin University lecturer Dr Haelee Fenton said, "In the production of noodles, lots of different sciences play a role. We try to understand the grain and the flour chemistry, so (we are) looking at protein and starch components and how that impacts the end quality of the noodle."
A grainy situation
As a leading wheat grain producer, Western Australia is responsible for an annual 12 million tonnes of the crop. This accounts for 40% of Australia’s total exported grain, with an overwhelming majority delivered to Asia.
Figures from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development reveal that $250 million worth of wheat grain was exported to Japan last year, most of it for noodle production.
In fact, wheat grain from Western Australia plays such a prominent role in noodle-making that the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) holds a yearly event solely for noodles.
AEGIC's wheat quality technical markets manager Dr Larisa Cato said: "The Japanese industry demands high-quality noodles made from high-quality wheat flour, and the strong relationship between Australia and Japan ensures a high-quality product reaches Japanese consumers."
Japan is Asia’s third largest buyer of wheat grain in Asia, with Indonesia buying around $650 million last year.
Protein to protect against diabetes
According to the International Diabetes Federation, 80% of instant noodle consumption occurs in Asia, where 60% of the world’s diabetic population live. The federation also claims that in China alone, there are 98.4 million diabetics.
If the current research pays off, the $3bn worth of wheat grain exported from Western Australia could contain added protein, and therefore contribute to reducing diabetes in Asia.