Tatiana Sanabria reports for Pagina Siete:
Chuño and tunta may decrease the level of glucose in the blood
Science: a group of Bolivian researchers analyzed resistant starch in 52 samples of potato, chuño [sometimes de ñ does not show, is the n with the – on top, Spanish alphabet] and tunta in two communities of La Paz.
Chuño and tunta, ancient and emblematic tubers in the western region [highlands] of the country, may decrease glucose levels in the blood of people with diabetes type II, according to a study of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA).
In addition, to contain a type of starch that is slow in digestion and satiety which generates, these potato derivatives are positive in the diet of people with overweight.
This finding, which meant two years of specialized research, highlights not only these traditional foods, but also the ancestral knowledge behind its production, and the wide diversity of crops that exist in the country.
The study of fiber content, content of fiber-associated polyphenols, and resistant starch by a team of chemists, engineers and physicists, Bolivia and Sweden, shows this result obtained after the analysis of 52 samples of potatoes, tunta and chuño of the communities of Pacollo and Chojnacota, in La Paz.
“In our country there is much talk of chuño, but regarding its scientific impact there is nothing, just as there is no anthropological articles that make reference to their origin. With this study, in addition to reassess this food, we want to show that in Bolivia can be done top research that generates industry”, says Mauricio Peñarrieta, researcher of food chemistry, from the UMSA.
This study determined that chuño and the tunta are functional foods, which have a high nutritional value because it contains essential amino acids which helps the correct functioning of the metabolism and, in addition, to maintain a series of vitamins and antioxidants.
Foods with high fiber content, particularly resistant starch, are an alternative in the diet of diabetics and overweight, but are also suitable for other people.
“Functional foods are not drugs, they were designed to prevent possible disturbances in the normal functioning of the metabolism of a person. Chuño and the tunta can also can help people with diabetes and overweight by providing less appetite and give a sense of satiety”, explains Patricia Mollinedo, specialist in natural products chemistry, who also participated in the study.
This product is therefore important considering that, according to the Non communicable chronic diseases program of the Ministry of Health, 800,000 people suffer from diabetes in Bolivia, with projections to reach 1 million in 2013.
To reach this conclusion, this multidisciplinary team of researchers traveled to the mentioned communities at different times of the year in order to know the transformation process of tubers in different dehydrated products like chuño and the tunta.
Researchers have noted that these ancestral techniques, friendly to the environment, can not be replicated easily for the industry because creating the same conditions of humidity and temperature of the countryside would demand a high consumption of energy.
During the “chuñificacion” [process to make a potato into chuño], as Peñarrieta called, scientists measured ultraviolet radiation, the variation of soil temperature, wind speed and the temperature of dew in frost, among other parameters, which will help to standardize this process for a homogeneous production.
“An interesting finding was that during an icy period, soil records a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius below zero at night and 30 degrees in the morning; i.e. a significant temperature variation that contributes to dehydration of the product”, explains the researcher Juan Carlos Calisaya.
Measurement techniques were developed in collaboration with the Swedish company Aventure AB, which has experience in the development of healthy foods and have qualified skills in the fields of food and biotechnology.
Aventure AB is interested in the possible industrialization of fibers, resistant starch and polyphenols related to chuño and tunta, to develop functional foods as those offered in other European countries.
Peñarrieta explains that this firm showed interest in the project, “because it is a friendly environment and product with a millennial process as background, which is important for the European market”.
As this possibility opens, the next step is to perform a more complex study in people with diabetes to determine the dosage of starches in soups, drinks and other products that do not require eating chuño as it is known.
“Once the products are developed, will work with the communities for their production, processing and marketing. In this way is intended to give added value to products in order to benefit producers, such as Pacollo and Chojnacota communities”, said Mollinedo.
This, in turn, demand the creation of a local company that, along with Aventure AB, will be involved in the processing and marketing of such products with scientific backing.
“We still have a long way to go, but we are satisfied with the results of this research and to contribute in the revaluation of chuño, not only in Bolivia, but in other countries,” concludes Peñarrieta.
Excellent research and promising value added for our producers’ incomes!