US scientists have produced a pizza with enhanced antioxidant content in the crust, aimed to boost antioxidant defences and protect against oxidative stress.
Researchers from the University of Maryland told attendees at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society that by optimising baking and fermentation methods, the antioxidant content of pizza could get a healthy boost.
Still not fruit and veg
But the research has been criticised by a leading dietician for promoting unhealthy eating. Commenting independently on the research, Jacqui Lowdon of the British Dietetic Association said: "I would rather people ate their five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, than ate more pizza.
"They will be getting a high fat intake, and it may make them more likely to choose extra cheese and salami.
"This isn't teaching people about healthy eating."
The new research, from Liangli Lucy Yu and Jeffrey Moore at the University of Maryland investigated ways of improving the antioxidant properties of wheat and then incorporating this into a pizza, chosen due to the US' love affair with the food.
"We chose to investigate pizza dough because it's one of the most popular wheat-based food products in the US," said Moore. "Making popular food more healthy using the tools of chemistry may have a larger impact on public health."
Longer and at higher temperature
Moore and Yu exposed whole grain pizza dough to different baking temperatures, ranging from 205 to 290 degrees Celsius, and to baking times ranging from seven to 14 minutes, and found that longer baking times or higher temperatures corresponded to higher antioxidants levels, compared to less intense baking conditions.
Indeed, antioxidant levels are reported to have increased by 60% during longer baking times and up to 82% during the higher baking temperatures, depending on the type of wheat flour and the antioxidant test used, said Moore.
The fermentation process involved in dough preparation was also found to have an effect on antioxidant activity, with longer fermentation time boosting antioxidant levels, in some cases by as much as 100%.
More time to release antioxidants
Moore proposed that this increase might result from chemical reactions induced by yeasts, which had more time to release the antioxidant components that were bound in the dough.
The researchers only studied wholegrain wheat since most of the antioxidants in wheat are found in the bran and endosperm components, which have been largely removed in refined flour.
"This research demonstrates the potential of solid-state enzyme and fermentation post-harvest treatments, and optimised processing conditions to improve the antioxidant properties of wholewheat," stated the researchers.
Moore revealed that the work is on-going with research now focussing on improving the health promoting properties of wheat, developing new varieties with higher antioxidant levels, and investigating how farmers may increase these nutrients during the growing stage.
The study was not funded by the pizza industry, said Moore, but was funded by several US-based grain producing organisations. – (Decision News Media, March 2007)
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