Kolkata: The rice and wheat you eat may soon also be used as a medicine if scientists are successful in changing the carbohydrate profile of foodgrains.
By partial bioprocessing of rice, wheat and coarse grains like jowar, bajra and ragi, a team of five researchers at IIT Kharagpur are busy developing nutraceuticals, which has the best of nutrition and pharmaceutical medicine.
Once ready in the next three years, the bioprocessed grains would then be consumed just like corn flakes or in the form of ready-to-eat products like biscuits, chocolates and even health drinks.
"Changing the dietary carbohydrate profile by bioprocess in grains will lead to the development of new range of low-cost prebiotic nutraceuticals. It will enable better nutrition by releasing more energy, promoting growth of beneficial gut microbe and inhibiting harmful gut bacteria and boosting immunity," lead researcher of the project Dr Satyahari Dey told PTI.
The foodgrains would also be fortified with beneficial microbe and micronutrients before it reaches the consumer.
Prebiotic and probiotic nutraceuticals are preventive for lifestyle diseases like hyperglycemia, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, etc.
"They can even cure certain diseases if they are in their initial stages," the biotechnologist, who is also the deputy secretary general of Asian Federation of Biotechnology, said.
Malnutrition in women and children is also in many respects related to dietary carbohydrate assimilation - a problem which can be solved with the new generation food.
One such type of biscuit made of bioprocessed grains is already under trial at the IIT campus.
"For further trials we will launch it in the local market from our IIT's Science & Technology Entrepreneurs' Park (STEP). The main raw materials are coarse grain crops that are low-cost food source for people and processed ingredients will therefore be affordable to all," Dey said.
Their ultimate aim would be to commercialise the technology.
The project, funded by the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development, also aims at improving food security through reduced dietary intake.
The National Food Security Act proposes to give rice, wheat, coarse grains to the tune of 62 million tonnes annually for 67 per cent poor population but it may not ensure nutritional security of the poor, say experts.
"Bioprocessing will help reduce daily dietary intake and our total national foodgrain need because the delivery of our nutrition-improved processed food will ensure nutritional security for our people," Dey said.
Researchers deny that there could be any possible side effects of consuming such partially bioprocessed products.
"The ingredients are from grain crops, edible and are in common use. So there can be no such side effects," they say.