It has the same taste and texture as old-fashioned pasta, but it has essentially no effect on my blood glucose level. This sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is, because there are still several unanswered questions.
But based on my experience with eating Dreamfields Pasta and a long interview with the inventor, I am prepared to say that food technology has changed forever. This is something new under the sun.
If you thought that the U.S. had been engulfed by a low-carb revolution, you haven’t seen anything yet. Other than Dreamfields Pasta, the low-carb technology has essentially relied on dilution. They take out carbohydrates and replace them with something else, usually fiber or protein.
One carbohydrate expert speculated that the Dreamfields Pasta must contain a large amount of resistant starch or other kinds of dietary fiber. No, that isn’t they way they did it, says Dr. Jon Anfinsen, the inventor of the process.
The technology behind Dreamfields Pasta results in most of the carbohydrate grams becoming “protected” or non-digestible, Dr. Anfinsen tells me. It “involves molecular interactions that help block the enzyme from attacking the carbohydrate starch granule. It is not encapsulated. We have basically creating the situation where there is a matrix more or less that has a tendency to attract the enzyme to the matrix and not the carbohydrate.”
These non-digestible carbohydrates aren’t counted as fiber, but they “start to act as fiber in the colon,” Dr. Anfinsen says. “They perform just like any other fiber in the colon; whether it be a soluble or an insoluble fiber that is fermented, it acts the same.”
Tim Dodd, CEO of Dakota Growers Pasta Company in Carrington, North Dakota, another partner in the Dreamfields venture, describes the process somewhat differently. He says they make the pasta in four shapes — spaghetti, elbows, penne rigate, and linguine — from enriched durum semolina, the coarse flour made from durum wheat. A 52-gram (2 ounce) serving of Dreamfields Pasta still includes 42 grams of total carbohydrates, he says, but 37 are rendered non-digestible by a “fiber blend” process for which a patent is pending. The process leaves only 5 digestible carbs per serving, Dodd says.
The Dreamfields venture has a new company — Design Nutrition Alliance LLC. The company includes Dakota Growers Pasta Company, the third largest pasta manufacturer in North America; TechCom Group LLC of Gainesville, Florida, the science and technology company that Dr. Anfinsen owns; B-New, a Cincinnati development and marketing company; and Buhler Inc. of Plymouth, Minnesota, a equipment manufacturer that specializes in research and development and new product lines.
So far their descriptions of the process are vague — intentionally so. The company plans a press conference that will disclose more of the process, Dr. Anfinsen says.
Although the technology itself is still unclear, its effects are obvious. It has essentially no glycemic effect and yet causes no stomach distress.
The pasta has a glycemic index of about 12 (where glucose equals 100), Dr. Anfinsen says. It has not, however, been tested in either of the major glycemic index testing laboratories, those associated with Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller of the University of Sydney and Dr. Thomas Wolever of the University of Toronto. Instead, a clinical laboratory in Gainesville owned by a group of physicians did the testing, he says.
You might expect that a normal serving of Dreamfields Pasta, which contains 4 grams of fiber and 37 grams of non-digestible carbohydrates, would have a major laxative effect. Dr. Anfinsen says that tolerance tests of double and triple portions had no gastrointestinal repercussions.
My family and I can vouch for the taste, texture, low glycemic effect, and absence of stomach distress. I served Dreamfields pasta — linguini and elbows but not yet spaghetti or penne — for dinner four times last week. Here are my blood glucose levels tested for each meal, just before eating, as the benchmark, exactly one hour after the first bite, when levels are generally the highest, and exactly two hours after the first bite, which an American Diabetes Association Consensus Statement recommends. Each time I tested twice and these numbers are the averages:
Blood Glucose Effects of Dreamfields Pasta
|Meal||Before||After 1 Hour||After 2 Hours|
|Elbows and Cheese with milk, eggs||92||118||118|
|Linguini, ground beef, tomato sauce||109||118||106|
|Linguini, sautéed mushrooms, glass of merlot||111||105||113|
|Linguini, sautéed mushrooms (leftovers), glass of merlot||114||100||97|
A few other people who have tested Dreamfields Pasta report results that aren’t so promising. One woman wrote on the Low-Carb blog that “I've tired [tried] this product 3 times (just a 2oz. portion) and all three times my blood sugar level jumped 50-70 points.”
This pasta will spike those who are highly insulin resistant.
Dr. Anfinsen says that his medical staff talked to two people, including this woman, who reported spikes. They concluded that one of them had extremely high insulin resistance and the other was using a defective meter. For those who are highly insulin resistant eating any carbohydrate could cause a spike, he says.
It also seems likely, I think, that people who have a high “insulin/carb ratio” will find that eating Dreamfields Pasta will spike their blood glucose. While the general rule is that one unit of insulin covers 15 grams of carbohydrate, this is too rough an estimate. Most people need one unit of insulin for six to 20 grams of carbohydrate, according to Using Insulin by John Walsh et al. (San Diego: Torrey Pines Press, 2003). The ratio can vary, the book says, from one unit for 25 grams to one unit for every 2 grams.
There are more concerns. One carbohydrate expert I spoke with says he doesn’t know if products like this that reduce the carbohydrate that the body sees is a good thing in the long run.
When I mentioned that to Dr. Anfinsen he replied that he has a similar feeling. “I am a believer that if you try to control your carbs too low then you will have a tendency to make the body more sensitive to gluconeogenesis, where you get conversions of proteins and sugar alcohols and other things in the body to glucose. Both too little and excessive carbohydrate consumption can have major impact on health.
“The National Academy of Sciences has the Food and Nutrition Board, and the Food and Nutrition Board put up some guidelines for carbohydrate intake. Their guidelines are 130 grams per day. What you are trying to do is not overconsume but not underconsume either. The problem is that if people can do this, they will start taking their carbohydrate lower and lower and lower to an unhealthy point. Personally, I find myself the healthiest when I confine myself to 80 to 100 grams a day. I feel good at that point and that is probably connected with my exercise level, and that is probably connected with my metabolism. That is where I control my weight, my health, my blood pressure, and everything. But if I start kicking up high carbs above that I start seeing negative changes.”
Another concern is that the official Nutrition Facts on packages of Dreamfields Pasta still seem contradictory. Each 2 ounce serving has 190 calories, very much like that of normal pasta. I asked Dr. Anfinsen how that is possible.
“It actually has less,” he replied. “This is a problem with labeling this type of product. The FDA does not have a procedure that we can follow. When you put something in your mouth that is what you report. If something happens in your body then it changes. For example, if you were to use all that carbohydrate you would have to count the calories per gram of the carbohydrate that was taken into your mouth. But if you bypass those carbs into the colon, where they are fermented, a large amount of the energy goes into the biomass of the bacteria which become feces and are passed on, so the body doesn’t use that energy, and it also puts it into certain forms that aren’t used as energy by the body in the fermentation process in the colon.”
He says that they haven’t completed their fermentation energy studies, but the non-digestible carbohydrates have fewer carbohydrate per gram than the 4 calories per gram that carbohydrates typically have.
“Look at the label,” he continues. “Of the 42, subtract the 4 grams of fiber and you are down to 38, now you have to subtract the 5 grams that are digested and you now are down to 33. Those 33 grams of carbohydrate don’t show up as 4 calories per gram — they show up as approximately 1.6 calories per gram.”
The company began producing Dreamfields Pasta in January, and it is just beginning to arrive in major supermarkets. Wal-mart Supercenters, Kroger, and Safeway as well as numerous other regional chains reportedly carry it. Locally, we have five Safeway stores. So I called each of them, and only one, the Scotts Valley store, had it. So I piled into the car and drove 12 miles to that store. I bought two boxes each of spaghetti, linguine, and elbows (and left the penne rigate in the store). Safeway's price is $2.99 for each 1 pound package, a sizeable premium above the company’s list price of $2.59.
So far, Dreamfields is targeting dieters rather than people with diabetes. “The reason for this is that from the scientific standpoint is that we have an agreement with them that they don’t promote anything unless we approve it. And we don’t want them promoting anything that we don’t have all the data for. We are doing the diabetic studies right now.”
They are also looking far beyond pasta. “The process can be applied to all sorts of different products,” Dr. Anfinsen told me. “We are right now in the process of producing a potato product. We will also have a rice product.”
Although questions remain, I think this product will be of great importance to dieters and people with diabetes. The Dreamfields brand name resonates with the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams. If you switch corn to wheat, Iowa to North Dakota, then when the company makes it, the dream is that we will come to buy it. Based on my research and taste test, I think that dream will become a huge reality.
|A correspondent writes that her husband has diabetes “and Dreamfields is a gift from heaven. However I have found one problem. If you cook the pasta in an acid sauce, such as a tomato based sauce, it seems to lose its low-carb characteristics and the carbs become available for digestion. I have a favorite recipe in which the pasta is cooked in the marinara sauce. When I make it with Dreamfields, my husband’s blood glucose level spikes up over 130 the next morning. If I make exactly the same recipe, but cook the pasta in water and stir the cooked pasta into the sauce, his blood glucose level will be in the mid 80s. I’ve tried this twice with the same result each time.”|
This article originally appeared at Mendosa.com on April 19, 2004.
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