Following a request from the European Commission, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies was asked to provide a scientific opinion on a list of health claims pursuant to Article 13 of Regulation 1924/2006. This opinion addresses the scientific substantiation of health claims in relation to beta-glucans and the following claimed effects: maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations and maintenance or achievement of a normal body weight. The scientific substantiation is based on the information provided by the Member States in the consolidated list of Article 13 health claims and references that EFSA has received from Member States or directly from stakeholders.
The food constituent that is the subject of the health claims are beta-glucans, which are soluble cereal fibres. Beta-glucans are non-starch polysaccharides composed of glucose molecules in long linear glucose polymers with mixed β-(1→4) and β-(1→3) links with an approximate distribution of 70% to 30%. This opinion applies to beta-glucans naturally present in foods and those forms added to foods. The Panel considers that beta-glucans are sufficiently characterised.
Maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations
The claimed effect is “blood lipids”. In the context of the proposed wordings, the Panel notes that the claimed effect relates to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations. The Panel considers that maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations is beneficial to human health.
In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that, although some human intervention studies using high doses of beta-glucans (about 10g/d) in food matrices like juices or baked products have not observed a statistically significant reduction in LDL-cholesterol, most of the randomised controlled trials investigating the effects of non-processed or minimally processed oat or barley beta-glucans at doses of at least 3g/d have shown a statistically significant decrease in LDL-cholesterol in both normocholesterolaemic and hypercholesterolaemic subjects.
The Panel also considers that beta-glucans from oat bran and barley bran have similar effects on serum LDL-cholesterol.
On the basis of the data available, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the consumption of beta-glucans and the reduction of blood cholesterol concentrations. The following wording reflects the scientific evidence: “Regular consumption of beta-glucans contributes to maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations”. In order to bear the claim, foods should provide at least 3 g/d of beta-glucans from oats, oat bran, barley, barley bran, or from mixtures of non-processed or minimally processed beta-glucans in one or more servings. The target population is adults with normal or mildly elevated blood cholesterol concentrations.
Maintenance or achievement of a normal body weight
The claimed effect is “weight control”. The Panel considers that maintenance or achievement of a normal body weight is beneficial to human health. None of the references presented addressed the effects of beta-glucan consumption on body weight.
On the basis of the data available the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of beta-glucans and the maintenance or achievement of a normal body weight.